The Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental Research
Drylands comprise 40% of the global landmass, ranging from Mediterranean-climate regions to extreme deserts. Drylands have become a "last frontier" for the expanding global human population. Currently, more than one-third of the Earth’s population lives in drylands. A great number of the inhabitants who depend on the productivity of the land itself are stricken by poverty and become poorer every year due to an accelerating, largely human-induced decrease in land productivity known as desertification. Development practices that work well in non-drylands have a disastrous impact on the biodiversity and productivity of drylands with far-reaching repercussions for the global environment.
To increase the value of drylands to mankind, and to reduce the damage to the global environment caused by desertification, we need to adapt to the dryland environment by learning to manage drylands for large-scale use along scientifically guided principles of sustainable development. The interaction between physical, biological and social components of the dryland environment serves as the required basis for an integrative research program which will provide the means for sustainable development. For over 30 years, scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research (BIDR), specializing in a variety of disciplines, have been generating knowledge required for the development of deserts with resultant world-wide applications. The challenge currently at hand is to achieve true interdisciplinary (not just multidisciplinary) research of a problem solving nature in order to cope with critical issues for populations around the globe – food, water, shelter and the environment. The BIDR proposes a new approach to tackling the challenges of sustainable development of drylands by combining and integrating scientific disciplines.
The Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental Research (SIDER) brings together the ecologists of the Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, the environmental physicists of the Department of Solar Energy and Environmental Physics and the architects, planners and social scientists of the Man in the Desert Department representing thus an uniquely interactive and interdisciplinary entity. The SIDER not only integrates a variety of disciplines for innovative, interdisciplinary research, but will also facilitate the involvement of its researchers in national, regional and global research projects and initiatives.