Environmental Science and Engineering Seminar
Pressures from land, water resource demands and climate change are altering the structure and function of dryland ecosystems globally. In semi-arid woodlands and shrublands, climate extremes and disturbances from land use, fire and floods are affecting large regions and the livelihoods of diverse groups of people in developed and developing countries alike. This talk reviews work that applies multi-scale ecosystem science (satellite, drone-based remote sensing and field plot-scale data) to address dryland community environmental challenges in Africa and California. Key questions for both geographies involve: (1) characterizing vegetation structure, water and nutrient cycling processes governing regrowth and productivity after disturbance at landscape scales, and (2) assessing coupled human-natural system vulnerability and resilience to extreme events. Specific research discussed will include (a) patterns in recovery of woodland structure, carbon and nitrogen cycles during regrowth in African Miombo systems, and strategies they suggest for regional forest conservation; (b) seasonal patterns in image-based productivity and water stress indicators across California oak species, and (c) situating drone-based assessment of debris basins against post-fire catchment hazards to inform flood infrastructure management in California. Ongoing science and routine monitoring of vegetation conditions in drylands that is community-situated, and socioeconomically inclusive, offers promising means toward mitigating and adapting to the climate and land-use challenges facing these regions.