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CLIMATE AND LAND USE CHANGE IN PACIFIC MESOAMERICA. CHALLENGES FOR CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. Content. The global picture Scenarios for Costa Rica and Central America What are the challenges for conservation? What are the opportunities for rational responses?.


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Climate and land use change in pacific mesoamerica l.jpg



Content l.jpg


  • The global picture

  • Scenarios for Costa Rica and Central America

  • What are the challenges for conservation?

  • What are the opportunities for rational responses?

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Industrial revolution and the atmosphere

The current concentrations of key greenhouse gases, and their rates of change, are unprecedented.

Carbon dioxide


Nitrous oxide

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Temperature change C

• 85% of world’s glaciers are retreating.

• The majority of Greenland and Antarctica ice caps melting twice as fast as expected.

• 0.5 degree C rise in SST= 40% increase hurricane activity.

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Climate Change

Changes in the mean (average)

and variance

…are both important for temperature and rainfall

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…new considerations

  • El Nino Modoki

  • African dust

  • Trace gases

  • Clouds

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June, July, August

Hot and Dry in Costa Rica

December, January,

February typical hot and dry in Costa Rica

(northern Pacific side)

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Sea surface temperatures (SST) of classic developing El Nino

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High wind shear in Caribbean reduces formation of strong storms. A characteristic feature of El Nino years.

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El Nino Modoki or Central Pacific El Nino

During an El Nino Modoki, the Pacific warm pool is further westward. Wind shear in the Caribbean is reduced and the formation of strong Atlantic storms may increase. Greater ocean productivity in the Costa Rica “dome”?

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And the role of African dust??Most comes from a small part of Mali

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Will the Sahelian climate become drier or wetter…climate models give contradictory scenarios. But….

Overgrazing by goats is increasing dust storms in Africa.

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Trace gases emitted by vegetation may also be important

Isoprene and monoterpense (volatile organic compounds) may make up as much as 6% of atmospheric carbon

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Tropical forests emit the largest amounts of isoprene and monoterpenes

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Organic aerosols, especially monoterpenes, contribute to cooling of the atmosphere.

They can form raindrop nuclei and increase rainfall. Important in coniferous forests where mostly monoterpenes are emitted.

However….in tropical forests both isoprene and monoterpenes are produced. And more are produced at higher temperatures.

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Large air chamber experiments demonstrate that rain nuclei do not form from these aerosols when isoprene and monoterpene occur together.

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Increasing amounts of isoprene plus monoterpene may therefore lead to drier and warmer conditions. Will this be true in the real tropical environment?

Forest composition will be important because some species emit mostly isoprene, e.g. Quercus, while others emit mostly monoterpenes, e.g., Eucalyptus, Anacardium.

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Do clouds (red) above warm oceans act to cool or to warm the atmosphere?

Results of 55 year study of ship records recording ocean temperature and cloudiness suggest that low level “cooling” clouds are dissipated and there is an increase in high level clouds that allow more sunlight penetration.

Therefore, high level clouds forming over warm oceans may act as a positive feedback mechanism to enhance further warming.

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The Working Group I Report

IPCC 2007

  • Started 2004

  • Completed February 2007

  • 152 Authors

  • ~450 contributors

  • ~600 expert reviewers

  • 30,000+ review comments

  • And, that is just for this Working Group

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What do the regional climate models tell us?

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Regional climate models

Consider such local variables as mountains, proximity to ocean, land use, etc.

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Regional Climate Model (CATHALAC 2008)

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Future climate of Costa Rica…best guesses

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Scenarios for Costa Rica and Central America

  • Even more uncertainty

  • General agreement that the future will be hotter and drier than the present

  • Likely that much of Central America will have more prolonged droughts

  • Plausible that much of Central America will have few but more intense storms

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Some likely consequences for Costa Rica

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Possible increase in vector borne diseases

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Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) distribution

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Aedes albopictus

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Challenges for conservation

  • Changes in species distribution and abundance

  • Altered phenology and productivity of forests

  • Vulnerable aquatic ecosystems

  • Re-assessing environmental services

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Changes in species distribution and abundanceSome examples at small, medium and large scales

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Fig trees are pollinated by small wasps that fly short distances. Because fig trees reproduce asynchronously and are abundant there is usually a nearby fig to pollinate.

However, drier and hotter weather may reduce flight distances and affect fruiting patterns

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Quetzal and Lauraceae distribution with climate change???Quetzal migrate up and down mountains following the fruiting pattern of several species of Lauraceae.

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Resplendent Quetzal. Royal bird of the Maya.

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Quetzals, toucans, and many other fruit-eating birds are major dispersers of tree seeds. Their ecosystem service maintains the forest. This Quetzal is holding a fruit of a wild relative of the avocado.

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A key question…..

As climate change develops, how will the fruit yield of the lower elevation Lauraceae be affected?

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Long distance connections

Shade-grown coffee and boreal spruce-fir forests

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Vermivora peregrina “Cazadorcita”

Most important insectivore in shade-grown coffee in Costa Rica and major predator on spruce budworm pest in Canadian boreal forest.

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Questions for the cazadorcita?

  • How will warming of the boreal climate affect spruce budworm populations and bird breeding success?

  • How will this affect coffee farm pest populations?

  • Can V. perigrina in Costa Rica be protected from a drying climate by managing nectar sources?

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Combretum fruticosum, example of an important nectar source for birds in the coffee zones

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Bird species diversity is strongly dependent on available monthly energy from fruit in shade-coffee

Peters, Cooper, Carroll 2009

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Global warming

Impact on two key crops

coffee and rice….

Implications for conservation

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Climate change is expected to greatly lower coffee yield in Central America…will Costa Rica have a relative advantage?

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La broca del café is a major limiting pest in coffee worldwide. Costa Rica is relatively less affected.

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Ojo de gallo disease is common in Costa Rice

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Coffee arabica

  • Yields drop sharply with higher temperature

  • Coffee berry borer “La broca” may move above 1500-1600 m

  • Coffee rust becomes worse

  • Leaf spot “ojo de gallo” a lesser problem if climate dries

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  • As coffee yields decline, price will increase. Will this increase pressure to open up more high altitude forest for coffee production?

  • Will shade coffee increase?

  • What will happen to the current coffee lands?

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  • Rice yields drop 10% for every 1 degree C increase in night time temperature (Philippines)

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Consequences con’t

  • As rice yields decline, will more lands be converted to irrigated rice to compensate for the lost aggregate revenue?

  • Will this increase competition for water to maintain natural wetlands--or conversion of wetlands to rice fields?

  • What about additional increased competition for water from coastal ecotourism?

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Palo Verde Marsh

Rice field

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Opportunities for rational responses in northwest Costa Rica

  • Increased monthly fruit-energy, floral resources in the shade coffee agroecosystem..”bird friendly” marketing

  • Protecting wet refugia, protecting headwaters,

  • Developing organic and water conserving rice production

  • Reconnecting and protecting wildlife corridors especially from the summit to the sea

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For adapting to climate change…Summit to the sea corridorsmay be even more important than north-south corridors

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Tempisque Project

A template for studying the consequences and adaptive responses to land use and climate change in Pacific Mesoamerica

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Tempisque basin rice fields

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