TALE project: assessing the water and ecosystem dynamics of 5 river basins

IMDEA Water evaluates the basins of the rivers Cega, Eresma and Adaja

Proyecto TALE

TALE project addresses the effects of different land-use structures and land-use intensities in a set of European agricultural landscapes using selected site-specific measures of biodiversity and ecosystem services (ESS). Therefore, TALE deals with five case study areas to represent the diversity of Europe´s landscapes and socio-economic conditions.

Case studies

Project background

The pressure on natural resources increases due to multiple competing demands for land. The resulting demand driven land use changes come at a cost in the form of trade-offs between food or bioenergy production, biodiversity conservation and other ecosystem services (ESS) like clean water, erosion control or soil fertility. By assessing and governing synergies between food production, biodiversity and ecosystem services, TALE will develop related strategies.

Across Europe countries differ regionally with respect to biodiversity, landscape structure, structure of the agricultural sector, conflicts regarding the provision of ESS (e.g. production vs. soil protection or water provision) with regard to preferences for particular agricultural ESS (e.g. provisioning vs. regulating or cultural services). Integrated approaches are required that cover a representative range of ESS over contrasting case study landscapes. Within TALE the ESSs are defined by a set of common indicators to be quantified in each case study region. By providing regional indicator assessments, TALE enhances the knowledge base on ESS provision across Europe. Common methods and tools are applied to allow for comparability and to enable the transferability of case study results and related implications to other regions in Europe.

Socios del proyecto​Results

Research results in TALE will be published in policy briefs and made available to decision makers but also to the general public. Moreover, the project provides a platform for the exchange of methodologies and scientific approaches to enhance mutual learning and to amend instruments for future challenges.

Who are the stakeholders? 

  • Farmers
  • Politicians
  • Administrative staff
  • NGOs
  • Scientists 

 What can stakeholders expect from TALE?

  • A set of policy options to best reconcile food production, biodiversity and ESS provision;
  • Insights on the scale dependence of optimal land use strategies (land sharing and sparing);
  • An evaluation of the robustness of alternative management options based on stakeholder-based scenarios of change;
  • A learning environment where scientists, prac-titioners, policy makers and students can exchange knowledge in the context of this study and where study results can be made available. 

Specific aims of TALE are:

  • to disentangle and quantify the multifaceted links between agricultural production, biodiversity and ecosystem services in different European landscapes
  • provide a learning environment that supports the design and evaluation of policy options that can help to reconcile conflicting demands, while at the same time ensuring the provision of ESS and conservation of biodiversity

Assessing the basins of the rivers Cega, Eresma and Adaja

The IMDEA Water Institute and the Polytechnic University of Madrid, as a key part of the study process in Spain, direct their efforts to establish the functional relationships of the management system Cega-Eresma-Adaja, in the provinces of Ávila, Segovia and Valladolid. This area has water characteristics such as: the use of surface water for irrigation in irrigation communities, exploitation of groundwater, a vast area of dry land crop and livestock production areas.

Currently, the various landscape changes related to human activities and ecosystem services are evolving rapidly; depend on many internal and external variables to the ecosystem, which is altered every year. The global market for production of goods, food and services force the environment to sustain this level of demand in resources, exerting unsustainable pressures in the medium and long term.

To assess these impacts on resources is fundamental knowledge of the hydrodynamics of the ecosystem at the basin scale. So it is carried out a process of hydrological modeling of the basin of the last decade, including aspects such as climate change scenarios, growth prospects in the areas of agricultural production, changes in land use, fertilizer use, rotation crops and efficiency of energy use in agriculture.

Cambios típicos del uso del suelo en la zona de estudio (Municipio de Valdestillas) en los últimos 10 años.

The biggest changes in the study area are associated with the changes of the land use (Figure 1). Aspects such as road development, variation of unpaved roads, modernization of irrigation systems, introduction of new crops, rural structures such as greenhouses, farms implantation, recreational uses, urbanization, etc. They are changes that will affect the available resources in the ecosystem and make the system more complex and difficult to assess.

The results of the joint modeling between UPM and IMDEA Water will be available in early 2017. All information obtained will be harmonized with the other European countries involved, to create the multifuctional decisión-making tool making in different European landscapes providing the best protection to our biodiversity, efficient agricultural production, the preservation of our ecosystems and soil and water resources, critical in our lives.


TALE (Towards multifunctional agricultural landscapes in Europe: Assessing and governing synergies between food production, biodiversity, and ecosystem services) is an interdisciplinary research project funded within the framework of BiodivERsA/FACCE-JPI

Published On: September 22, 2016

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