The LEGATO research project is exploring how traditional cultural landscapes in Southeast Asia are changing – and knowledge of how they function can help sustainable land use.

From 2011 until 2016, scientists assess how irrigated rice landscapes may help to preserve biodiversity, how traditional cultural landscapes have been preserved in Southeast Asia, and how the existing wealth of experience can be put to use in sustainable agriculture. To this end, around 80 researchers are examining land use case studies in Vietnam and the Philippines. They focus on not just ecosystem services such as food production, spraying and biological pest control, but also culture and aesthetics. The LEGATO research project is coordinated by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and has been granted total funding under the BMBF (German Ministry of Education and Research) research programme Sustainable Land Management to the tune of € 7.5 million.

LEGATO stands for ‘Land-use intensity and Ecological Engineering – Assessment Tools for risks and Opportunities in irrigated rice based production systems’ and aims to advance long-term sustainable development of irrigated rice fields, against risks arising from multiple aspects of global change. The international consortium consists of 21 research institutions from Germany, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, UK, Bulgaria and Spain.

The overall objective is the elaboration and testing of generally applicable principles within the frame of ecological engineering – an emerging discipline, concerned with design, monitoring and construction of ecosystems. Ecological engineering aims at developing strategies to maximize the ecosystem services through exploiting natural regulation mechanisms instead of suppressing them. A core component of this research project, which is part of the framework programme ‘FONA – Research for Sustainability’, is to create the knowledge and decision-making base necessary for sustainable land management and also to provide the corresponding action strategies, technologies and systems solutions.

In Southeast Asia, the researchers intend for example to improve the assessment of ecosystem services. Apart from ecological and economic aspects, the work also has an important cultural component since people’s lives in the region are dominated by rice cultivation. Rice is something millions of people in Southeast Asia have in common despite the considerable cultural differences between the three countries being studied. LEGATO’s goal is to bring about permanently sustainable land-use in the face of climate and land use change.

In Vietnam research takes place in 4 landscapes: the Mekong Delta in the South and the Red River Valley along a transect from Sapa to Hanoi in the North.

Land-use intensity and EcoloGical engineering – Assessment Tools for risks and Opportunities in irrigated rice-based production systems


03/2011 – 12/2016

Project area(s)

Hải Dương, Lào Cai, Vĩnh Phúc, Tiền Giang

Coordination (GER)

PD Dr. Josef Settele
Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research
Theodor-Lieser-Straße 4
06120 Halle a. d. Saale
+49 (0)345-558-5320

Project partner (GER)

  • Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Halle-Leipzig
  • Christian Albrecht University of Kiel
  • LUPO GmbH, Trippstadt
  • Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg
  • OLANIS GmbH, Leipzig
  • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  • Science4you, Bonn
  • Technical University Munich
  • University of Göttingen
  • University of Greifswald
  • University of Marburg

Project partner (VN)

  • Vietnamese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, HCMC
  • Center for Policy Studies and Analysis, Hanoi
  • Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, Hanoi
  • Further Partners:
  • International Rice Research Institute, Los Banos, Philippines
  • Visayas State Univ., Baybay, Philippines
  • CABI Southeast & East Asia, Malaysia
  • Philippine Rice Research Institute, Munoz, Philippines
  • Biomathematics & Statistics Scotland, UK
  • PENSOFT Publishers, Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain