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The sustainable development problem
Agriculture and hydropower are two cornerstones of Brazil’s ongoing economic expansion. This initiative will examine the long-term sustainability of agriculture and hydropower in the Amazon basin and surrounding areas in the face of the human-driven changes in the region’s water cycle arising from land-use transformation and global climate change.
At what point does deforestation and associated increases in cultivated area in the Amazon and surrounding areas cause declines in rainfall large enough that the changes in region’s water cycle begin to significantly impact the integrity of the remaining forest ecosystems, the region’s agricultural productivity and its hydropower? Are these environmental responses to increasing land transformation and human-induced climate change relatively smooth or are there key thresholds beyond which abrupt changes occur?
Solving a practical problem of sustainable development
Continuing expansion of agriculture and hydropower are key components of Brazil’s economic development strategy for the 21st century. This project will help determine the environmental externalities of this development trajectory arising from the feedbacks of land-use transformation onto the region’s hydrologic cycle, and how this will interact with anthropogenic climate change arising from greenhouse gas emissions.
We have been using a regional-scale coupled biosphere-atmosphere model ED2-BRAMS to explore the interactions between ecosystems, hydrology, and climate in the Amazon region. The ED2-BRAMS model is unique in its ability to realistically represent the dynamics of heterogeneous landscapes comprised mosaics of natural ecosystems and ecosystems impacted by human activities such as agriculture and forest harvesting and land-abandonment.
We will (1) increase the relevance of the ED2-BRAMS coupled biosphere-atmosphere model simulations for examining the sustainability of agriculture and hydropower in Amazonia and the surrounding regions, and (2) explore the key sources of uncertainty in the predicted changes in the climate, hydrology and ecosystems of the region. Three key parts of activity (1) will be:
We will conduct a series of sensitivity analyses to identify the principal sources of uncertainties in predicting the future state of the region’s hydrologic cycle over the coming decades.