Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences | Geography Department | Biogeography | People | Alumni & Past Visitors | Dr. Maria Piquer Rodriguez | Future land use in the South American Chaco and its effects on biodiversity

Future land use in the South American Chaco and its effects on biodiversity

Past land-use changes (LUC) have allowed for an extensive appropriation of resources by humans, enhanced societal development and improved human well-being, but these land-use changes have also resulted in unsustainable resource use, and the degradation of natural ecosystems. Most importantly, land-use change is currently the main driver of biodiversity loss, due to habitat loss and fragmentation, and will continue to be so in the future. Understanding future land-use effects on biodiversity is therefore crucial for sustainable land management and ultimately for harmonizing human resource use and conservation. This requires three components: (1) understanding what drives land-use change, and (2) exploring future land-use pathways and the land-use patterns they may result in, and (3) assessing how future land-use patterns may affect species’ habitats and populations. These are the three parts of my doctoral thesis.

I will focus on the Chaco in South America, one of the world’s fastest changing eco-regions where biodiversity is increasingly threatened by land-use change. My project will use econometric models to study the drivers of land-use change for the entire Chaco, and generate a set of future land-use scenarios for the region using land use simulation models. Furthermore, I will study how future land-use changes may affect the habitats of a number of focal species from different taxa using species distribution models and connectivity analyses.

Pathways to sustainable land management urgently need to be identified for this highly dynamic agricultural frontier region. My research will provide new insights towards aligning agriculture production and conservation in the Chaco, and these insights will be valuable for conservation planning beyond the geographic scope of my study region.


Chaco forest  Intensive pastures



June 2012