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LC-31 Abstract

Evaluating Changes in Regional- to Global-Scale Ecosystem Services Provided by Amazonian Rainforests

Marcos Costa — UFV - Universidade Federal de Viçosa (SA-PI)
Jonathan A. Foley — Institute on the Environment (US-PI)

The Amazon is one of the most important bioregions on the planet, and provides important ecosystem services to humankind – including a supplying a wide range of valuable agricultural, forest & timber, mineral and pharmaceutical commodities. The Amazon also contains a rich diversity of plant, animal and microbial life, and is thus an intrinsically valuable part of the biosphere. However, the Amazon also provides many larger-scale ecosystem services – often neglected in discussions of tropical forests – that play a role in the physical climate system, hydrologic cycle, and carbon cycle of the entire globe.

In this final phase of LBA-ECO, our research team proposes to evaluate a selected “portfolio” of regional- to global-scale ecosystem services provided by rainforests in the Amazon Basin:

• carbon storage, which keeps greenhouse gases from the global atmosphere

• maintenance of basin-wide hydrological systems, specifically the regulation of river flows and flood cycles across the basin and the associated flows of aquatic carbon

• regulation of regional and local climates, including teleconnections to distant regions

• regulation of vector-borne disease, particularly malaria.

We will use coupled atmosphere-biosphere-hydrology models of the Amazon basin, plus remote sensing observations and collections of field observations made during LBA, to attempt to quantify the current level of these services, and evaluate how they may be sensitive to changes in the extent and pattern of rainforest area that may result from continued deforestation pressures. Specifically, we will evaluate how changes in forest extent and pattern may degrade these regional- and global-scale ecosystem services. We will also examine whether deforestation causes a “threshold effect” in the delivery of ecosystem services. For example, what amount of deforestation (e.g., 5%, 10%, 20%, 50%) might cause a sudden change (or “collapse”) in carbon storage, climate regulation, hydrological control, or disease regulation?

Our proposal also includes a significant training and education component, focusing on teaching courses on environmental systems and dynamics and environmental modeling techniques. Specifically, we will continue the development of environmental systems modeling courses, and transition them from our “portable classroom” system to a more permanent and accessible system of web-based courses.

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