Vulnerability of the Ecuador’s Agricultural Sector as part of an Integrated Climate Change Vulnerability Study

Monday, 15 December 2014
Francisco Flores-Lopez and Nicholas James Depsky, Stockholm Environment Institute, Davis, CA, United States
Earlier this year SEI, in conjunction with the Environmental Secretary of Quito, concluded a vulnerability analysis for the Metropolitan District of Quito (DMQ). The study analyzed future anthropogenic and natural hazards, and how these threats may be potentially exacerbated by a changing climate over the next 40 years. The focus of this abstract is specifically on the vulnerability of the agricultural sector.

Overall, there is a lack of consensus amongst the results of long-term trends of precipitation in the Quito region. However, there is much more confidence in the trends of mean air temperature increase, and therefore this analysis focused specifically upon the effects of increasing temperatures upon Quito’s agricultural sector.  

Effects of a roughly 2°C increase in mean air temperature by 2050 (corresponding to a relative CO2 concentration pathway within the GCMs of 8.5) was evaluated with respect to its potential effects upon the length of growing season for principal crops, and which of these crops are most vulnerable to the increased heat stress. Also studied was the potential expansion of agriculture into higher elevation areas, namely the sensitive ‘paramo’ alpine ecosystem, due to increasing arability of these areas as temperatures rise.  The extent of cultivation of ‘paramos' areas was estimated in order to assess the likely diminutive effects upon local hydrology and ecosystem well-being.

Our results show that in fact it is expected that the increase in temperature would have a positive effect on the development of some crops, though the growing seasons would likely be shortened, which may be problematic given soil and rainfall constraints.

Regarding expansion of agriculture into the ‘paramo’ highlands, results showed that each 200m zone above 3400masl would experience a marked increase in agricultural land conversion, ranging from 15 – 55km2, depending upon the zone. The lowest zones are expectedly the most vulnerable as they already exist at the interface of the current agricultural frontier.  The need for additional adaptation, conservation, and land management planning initiatives in the region are echoed by these results, as well as need for further scrutiny of these issues under additional scenarios and sectoral lenses in order to best inform smart policy making in the DMQ.