2006-2008: Human and Physical Dimensions of Land Use/Cover Change in Amazônia: Phase III - Towards Sustainability (funded by NASA/LBA)

Description: Building on 33 years of research experience in the Amazon, this study will advance our understanding of land cover and land use change (LCLUC) and what trajectories will lead the region towards a sustainable path in both social and environmental terms. This project builds on a seven-region study, along the LBA transects, supported for nine years by NSF, NOAA and NIH funding, and for the past seven years by LBA funds. In this final phase of LBA, we propose to upscale from our detailed studies of human-environment interactions at these seven sites by examining LCLUC dynamics at county level in a total of 135 municipios, then aggregate these municipios data into two meso-regions, one in Para (ca. 672,200 km2), and the other in Rondonia (ca. 130,479 km2), and then to the entire two states (1,239,800 km2 and 239,400km2 respectively) to achieve our goals. We take advantage of data collected for several years using a nested-georeferenced approach including soil analyses, vegetation stand structure and composition (100+ sites), land use histories, institutional analyses, demography of 900+ households, and land cover classification using multi-temporal remote sensing data since 1970. The seven regions in our study represent a soil fertility gradient across Amazonia from most (i.e. alfisols) to least (i.e. spodosols) fertile and include a wide array of landscapes being transformed by human action along an east-to-west transect, extending from the Amazon estuary and the Bragantina region east of Belem, all the way to Rondonia in the west. To achieve NASA/LBA goals towards synthesis and integration, we propose:

1. Developing a multi-scale synthesis of LCLUC dynamics. We will do so by scaling up from our seven study areas to Census units such as municipalities, and meso-regions (contiguous groups of municipalities) several orders of magnitude larger than 10,000 km2. At each level we will be seeking to understand the role of social and biophysical variables on LCLUC trajectories during the past 30 years at scales at which concepts regarding sustainability can be applied and measured. Of interest are questions about Amazonian carbon dynamics at these scales and how human populations in our study areas are responding, for instance to initiatives prompted by the Kyoto Protocol and by Proambiente in Brazil. Our focus on sustainability includes understanding the maintenance of forest cover (extent and carbon dynamics), the shift from initial occupation to consolidation of land use in large colonization areas, and the rate of changes [e.g., migration, lot turn-over] in areas designated for agrarian reform.

2. Developing an integrated study of land use, land cover, and land-water interactions by linking our detailed studies of soil, plant, and stream biogeochemistry in forested sites across the Basin, with the larger datasets from LBA and global datasets that address the fundamental questions of the landscape-level controls on nutrient-carbon interactions within, and sustainability of, forests in the Amazon. This should allow us to address sustainability of forests by connecting our trajectories of change at our study sites to the larger regions within which they exist.

3. Developing a synthesis of Human Dimensions research for LBA and an approach to scientific collaboration between the partner institutions in Brazil and the US that will result in continuing and expanding a comprehensive program of education and training including courses, workshops, and Ph.D. training successfully started and developed during LBA Phases I and II.