Regional Climate Change Impact on Agricultural Land Use in West Africa

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:50 AM
Kazi F Ahmed, University of Connecticut, Groton, CT, United States, Guiling Wang, University of Connecticut, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Storrs, CT, United States and Liangzhi You, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC, United States
Agriculture is a key element of the human-induced land use land cover change (LULCC) that is influenced by climate and can potentially influence regional climate. Temperature and precipitation directly impact the crop yield (by controlling photosynthesis, respiration and other physiological processes) that then affects agricultural land use pattern. In feedback, the resulting changes in land use and land cover play an important role to determine the direction and magnitude of global, regional and local climate change by altering Earth’s radiative equilibrium. The assessment of future agricultural land use is, therefore, of great importance in climate change study. In this study, we develop a prototype land use projection model and, using this model, project the changes to land use pattern and future land cover map accounting for climate-induced yield changes for major crops in West Africa. Among the inputs to the land use projection model are crop yield changes simulated by the crop model DSSAT, driven with the climate forcing data from the regional climate model RegCM4.3.4-CLM4.5, which features a projected decrease of future mean crop yield and increase of inter-annual variability. Another input to the land use projection model is the projected changes of food demand in the future. In a so-called “dumb-farmer scenario” without any adaptation, the combined effect of decrease in crop yield and increase in food demand will lead to a significant increase in agricultural land use in future years accompanied by a decrease in forest and grass area. Human adaptation through land use optimization in an effort to minimize agricultural expansion is found to have little impact on the overall areas of agricultural land use. While the choice of the General Circulation Model (GCM) to derive initial and boundary conditions for the regional climate model can be a source of uncertainty in projecting the future LULCC, results from sensitivity experiments indicate that the changes in land use pattern are robust.