Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Biology

First Advisor's Name

Kenneth J. Feeley

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Steve Oberbauer

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Jennifer Richards

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Jennifer Gebelein

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Pallab Mozumder

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Keywords

Agriculture, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Date of Defense

3-18-2015

Abstract

A growing human population, shifting human dietary habits, and climate change are negatively affecting global ecosystems on a massive scale. Expanding agricultural areas to feed a growing population drives extensive habitat loss, and climate change compounds stresses on both food security and ecosystems. Understanding the negative effects of human diet and climate change on agricultural and natural ecosystems provides a context within which potential technological and behavioral solutions can be proposed to help maximize conservation. The purpose of this research was to (1) examine the potential effects of climate change on the suitability of areas for commercial banana plantations in Latin America in the 2050s and how shifts in growing areas could affect protected areas; (2) test the ability of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to map productivity of banana plantations as a potential tool for increasing yields and decreasing future plantation expansions; (3) project the effects on biodiversity of increasing rates of animal product consumption in developing megadiverse countries; and (4) estimate the capacity of global pasture biomass production and Fischer-Tropsch hydrocarbon synthesis (IGCC-FT) processing to meet electricity, gasoline and diesel needs. The results indicate that (1) the overall extent of areas suitable for conventional banana cultivation is predicted to decrease by 19% by 2050 because of a hotter and drier climate, but all current banana exporting countries are predicted to maintain some suitable areas with no effects on protected areas; (2) Spatial patterns of NDVI and ENDVI were significantly positively correlated with several metrics of fruit yield and quality, indicating that UAV systems can be used in banana plantations to map spatial patterns of fruit yield; (3) Livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss, and both livestock and feedstock production are increasing in developing biodiverse tropical countries. Reducing global animal product consumption should therefore be at the forefront of strategies aimed at reducing biodiversity loss; (4) Removing livestock from global pasture lands and instead utilizing the biomass production could produce enough energy to meet 100% of the electricity, gasoline, and diesel needs of over 40 countries with extensive grassland ecosystems, primarily in tropical developing countries.

Identifier

FI15032154

Share

COinS