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Title: Modelling land cover change in tropical rainforests
Author: Rosa, Isabel Maria Duarte
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2013
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Tropical deforestation is one of the most important drivers of biodiversity loss and carbon emissions. This thesis seeks to analyse the dynamics of tropical deforestation and develop a probabilistic model that predicts land cover change (LCC) in the tropics. The main findings from the analysis of the Brazilian Amazon deforestation dynamics are that large clearings comprised progressively smaller amounts of total annual deforestation while the number of smaller clearings remained unchanged over time. These changes were coincident with the implementation of conservation policies by the government. The review of LCC models presented here showed that this modelling community would benefit from improving: the openness to share model inputs, code and outputs; model validations; and standardised frameworks to be used for model comparisons. The modelling framework developed aimed to tackle the limitations found before and two scenarios of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon were simulated. For both scenarios forest next to roads and areas already deforested were found to be more likely to be deforested. States in the south and east of the region showed high predicted probability of losing nearly all forest outside of protected areas by 2050. The release of carbon to the atmosphere is an important consequence of tropical deforestation. Even if deforestation had ended in 2010 there would still be large quantities of carbon to be released. The amount of carbon released immediately is higher than the one committed for future release in the first few years of analysis, but presently these accounted for at least two-thirds of total carbon emissions. Finally, the drivers of LCC were found to vary among transition types, but less so through time. The accuracy of the model predictions was heavily dependent on the year calibrated, suggesting that a widespread reliance on single calibration time period may be providing biased predictions of future LCC.
Supervisor: Ewers, Robert Sponsor: Imperial College London
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral