Download here the usage and other details of the CASCADE Data Browser.

Download CASCADE Newsletter 4 - March 2017

Download CASCADE Newsletter 3 - June 2016

Download CASCADE Newsletter 2 - Aug 2015

Download  CASCADE Newsletter 1 April 2014

Download The CASCADE Glossary (.pdf 7232kb)

CASCADE: CAtastrophic Shifts in drylands: how CAn we prevent ecosystem DEgradation?

Project acronym: CASCADE
Project full title: CAtastrophic Shifts in drylands: how CAn we prevent ecosystem DEgradation? 
Instrument: Collaborative Large Integrated Project (IP) 
Grant agreement no.: 283068 
Start: 01/01/2012, End: 30/6/017, Duration: 66m; 
Consortium: 14 partners 
Project Coordinator: Soil Science Centre in Wageningen, the Netherlands
Project Web Site:,
Key words: drylands, desertification 
Press ReleaseMaking drylands more resilient with a CASCADE of new research, 17 June: World day to combat desertification

Project Summary

One of the most challenging themes in ecology over the last decades is the quest for the understanding of discontinuous changes in ecosystems. Discontinuous shifts have already been observed and analyzed for a wide variety of ecological systems, including lakes, drylands, peatlands, rangelands, marine systems, and musselbeds. 

Some of these discontinuous shifts in ecosystems imply undesired and irreversible changes. For example, shallow lakes can suddenly change into eutrophic systems with a large loss in biological diversity.

CASCADE will investigate and analyze a range of dryland ecosystems in southern Europe to obtain a better understanding of sudden shifts in drylands that may lead to major losses in biodiversity and concomitant ecosystem services. 

Based on these analyses, CASCADE will develop ways to predict the proximity of the CASCADE's dryland ecosystems to thresholds in such a way that these predictions can be used by policymakers and land users for more sustainable management of drylands worldwide.

CASCADE is assessing current biophysical conditions in healthy, partly-degraded and strongly degraded selected plant-soil systems at study sites in Portugal, Spain (2), Italy, Greece and Cyprus. Then it will determine the effects of imposed drought on plant-soil ecosystem functioning, including facilitation and competition between plants, and how these processes affect plant resource use, survival and growth. Four sites are examining overgrazing and its effects, and the remaining 2 look at the effects of wildfires changing forest to shrub. CASCADE partners responsible for the study sites met in Italy recently to refine ideas for the planned experiments. The number and location of plots have been agreed, plus common guidelines for all measurements and sampling procedures for the plants and soils.

Public dissemination

 CASCADE project is described in a brochure (used for public dissemination). The CASCADE brochure is available in the following 5 languages:

CASCADE has published the 4 newsletters (download links above) with the main activities of the project.

VIDEOS: You can visit the CASCADE video Channel and see also the videos with Italian and Greek subtitles. 
The concept of a tipping point in simple terms: . 

CASCADE 12-page booklet about overgrazing in the Randi Forest site, in Cyprus 

CASCADE project summarizes its findings in the final publication (2020):

van den Elsen E, Stringer LC, De Ita C, Hessel R, Kéfi S, Schneider FD, Bautista S, Mayor AG, Baudena M, Rietkerk M, Valdecantos A, Vallejo VR, Geeson N, Brandt CJ, Fleskens L, Hemerik L, Panagos P, Valente S, Keizer JJ, Schwilch G, Jucker Riva M, Sietz D, Christoforou M, Hadjimitsis DG, Papoutsa C, Quaranta G, Salvia R, Tsanis IK, Daliakopoulos I, Claringbould H and de Ruiter PC. 2020. Advances in Understanding and Managing Catastrophic Ecosystem Shifts in Mediterranean Ecosystems. Front. Ecol. Evol. 8:561101. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2020.561101

JRC Contribution

The contribution of JRC is mainly concentrated on the data management of the project. JRC implements the database of the plot sites and will handle the data management. Find attached the CASCADE Project poster.

SOIL team chaired a 90-minute CASCADE Special Session at the UNCCD conference in Bonn, Germany in April 2013: 
Session title: Catastrophic shifts in drylands: how can we prevent ecosystem degradation? 
Special Session on how to overcome the difficulties of successful engagement of non-scientific stakeholders.