Date of Award
Master of Science
Geography and Environmental Resources
The impacts of climate change on the environment at the global scale can be determined through the use of large-scale circulation models; however, the results from these models are difficult to interpret at the regional or local levels. Regional vulnerability analyses consider the knowledge of locals, which may provide insight into the effects of climate variability on the environment at smaller scales, and most importantly, the effects that these developments are having on society. The objective of this research was to analyze the vulnerability to climate variability of the beef cattle ranching communities of the municipalities of Acatic and of Tepatitlán de Morelos, Jalisco, Mexico. These municipalities are found in a region of the state referred to as "Los Altos". The economy of Los Altos largely relies on agricultural and farming practices; these sectors provide the largest source of employment in the area. In the two municipalities that comprise the study area, the beef cattle industry is one of the strongest economic activities. Climate variability poses great threat on these communities because the main economic activities of the region are highly dependent on natural resources. To have a better understanding of the human-environment interactions in this region, remote sensing methods were applied. Three Landsat Thematic Mapper TM images (years: 1985, 1993 and 2000) were employed to generate land use and land cover classification maps of the study area; these maps were then subjected to a change detections analysis. Some of the land use and land cover categories experienced more change than others; among those was the category of water, shrub land and crop land. The area covered by water nearly doubled from 1985 to 1993 and then nearly decreased by half by the year 2000. From 1985 to 1993, here was a decrease in the shrub land of about 1200 ha and concurrently an increase in the crop land of about 1400 ha. From 1993 to 2000 there was an increase in the shrub land category of about 430 ha and a decrease in the crop land category of about 690 ha. To gain insight into the effects of climate variability on the livelihoods of these communities, nine local beef cattle ranchers were interviewed on a one-on-one basis. All participants believe that the local beef cattle industry is highly valuable to the economy and culture of the region. All participants also mentioned that notable variations in to the climate have been occurring in recent decades; mainly precipitation scarcity and higher temperatures. The locals believe that these changes are the result of extensive deforestation. In past decades, deforestation of native vegetation has been intensely performed in order to make land available for agricultural purposes. Therefore, among the various adaptation measures to the changes presented in the climate, the cattle ranchers talked about planting trees. People believe that the "vision" of the region is changing and that reforestation has become a priority in this land. To determine the exact causes of the climate changes experienced in this region, further investigations have to be done. However, it is certain that these changes are having implications on the economic activities of the region; the people of these communities will continue facing difficulties if the present changes in the regional climate continue to develop. The employment of proper adaptation measures has the potential to reduce climate-related losses within the livestock and agricultural sectors. Therefore, it is crucial that preventive measures are taken by the members of these communities before the effects of climate change worsen in the region.
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