Date of Award
Master of Science
Meadows are critical in arid and semi-arid Argentinean Patagonia because of their importance for regional biodiversity. Despite this, little information on the spatial distribution of meadows is available and no analysis of the potential effect of climate change on meadows has been performed, which hampers conservation planning. In this study, I modeled the spatial distribution of meadows and investigated how climate change may affect the current distribution of meadows in arid and semiarid Patagonia by 2050. In addition, I investigated conservation status and areas of desertification vulnerability of those areas predicted to contain meadows. I used high-resolution imagery available in Google Earth software to visually estimate presence and absence of meadows. To model current and future distribution of meadows I used these observations and different socio-environmental predictor variables. I implemented generalized linear, additive, boosting, and random forest models, as the basis for a mean ensemble technique. I predicted future distribution of meadows using four different general circulation models and the A2 SERES scenario. The final ensemble model was an accurate representation of the current distribution of meadows in Patagonia and indicates they are severely under-represented within protected areas. I determined that overall meadow abundance is going to decrease by 2050 given the changes in climate. However, there were two contrasting trends: severe reduction of meadows in northwest Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego Island, and an expansion of suitable areas for meadows in the south and a small section in the northwest. This first regional map of meadow distribution across Argentinean Patagonia and information on meadows vulnerability to climate change represent key information for planning actions to conserve this critical habitat.
This thesis is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.