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Title: Improving projections of change in the ecosystem services of West Africa
Author: Hartley, Andrew James
ISNI:       0000 0004 6352 8523
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2016
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Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. Quantifying these benefits and understanding how they may change under multiple future pressures, such as climate change or land use change, is a highly uncertain exercise. In managing ecosystems to be resilient to future changes, natural resource managers need the most accurate information available, but also need to be informed of when and where they can be confident, or not, in projections of change. In this thesis, I address many of the key aspects of uncertainty in projections of change in ecosystem services, with a particular focus on challenges in West Africa. I show where and for what variables climate models may be reliably used in ecological studies, providing important advice for interpreting the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. Furthermore, I show that uncertainty in climate observations can also have a significant impact on climate change adaptation decisions at both the species level and in terms of protected area management. I also address how vegetation in West Africa may respond to future climate change. I found that even after uncertainties in climate and land use were considered, carbon storage in West African tropical forests was projected to increase where forest degradation remained low or reduced; vegetation productivity was projected to increase in all parts of West Africa, with the exception of locations in the West Sahel where the largest reductions in precipitation were projected; and, importantly for protected areas, ecosystems were projected to shift northwards despite uncertainty in precipitation projections. I also show the sensitivity of 3 major land surface models to uncertainty in vegetation mapping, thereby providing guidance to the remote sensing community on priorities to improve land cover mapping and to the earth system modelling community on bounds of uncertainty in carbon, moisture and energy budgets due to vegetation mapping uncertainties. Lastly, in using the latest land-atmosphere coupled convection-resolving model, I show that it is possible to simulate the observed interaction between landscape heterogeneity and local and regional scale precipitation in West Africa. This provides a timely and relevant tool that will allow scientists and natural resource managers to more accurately assess the impact of changes in land use on the regional climate of West Africa.
Supervisor: Sitch, Stephen Sponsor: Met Office ; European Space Agency ; Global Environment Facility
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ecosystem Services ; Climate Change ; Land Cover ; Biodiversity ; West Africa