Research Overview

An important limiting factor of climate simulation at a regional scale is the accurate physical depiction of surface/boundary layer conditions. The surface boundary conditions in turn represent the complex interaction of climatic, biophysical and human systems. For numerical and practical reasons, the science of each of the three systems has been limited to techniques and methods that operate on different spatial and temporal scales. Improved ability to assess the impacts of climate change requires the integration of these systems and the development of new conceptual frameworks and methodologies. This collaboration between social and biophysical scientists demands a focus on common issues that enhances analysis, methodology and theory, and a search for conceptual frameworks that may enable future approaches to land use to be both more scientifically sound and more policy relevant.

Summary of System-Wide Questions

Research Questions

The overarching research question of the project is: What is the magnitude and nature of the interaction between land use and climate change at regional and local scales?

The sub-research questions addressing the components and linkages, include:

Global to regional links: Is global climate change discernibly affecting regional climate, and if so, how? What are the current and near term climate variability trends, such as the frequency and intensity of droughts, floods and El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events, and how are they influenced by large-scale climate phenomena?

Regional climate to productivity: Does the composition and distribution of natural and agro-ecosystems change with past and future climate change? How might the spatial and temporal dynamics of natural and agro-ecosystems affect net primary productivity (NPP)?

Productivity to use: How will changes in natural and agricultural productivity affect land use practices and patterns? What aspects of climate change are most likely to affect individual and community decisions regarding their land use? How will different livelihood systems respond?

Use to cover: What intensity of land use change significantly affects land cover?

Cover to climate: How sensitive is regional climate to alterations of land cover? What degree of conversion of land cover, such as from bush to crops or forest to crops, is required to alter biophysical parameters that link to regional climate? What spatial extent of land cover change is required before the climate is affected?

By addressing the above research questions, the project will contribute to a broader understanding of interactions between physical and human processes in tropical regions.


Olson, J., Alagarswamy, G., Andresen, J., Campbell, D., Davis, A., Ge, J., Huebner, M., Lofgren, B., Lusch, D., Moore, N., Pijanowski, B., Qi, J., Thornton, P., Torbick, N., & Wang, J. (2008). Integrating Diverse Methods to Understand Climate-Land Interactions in East Africa. GeoForum. 39, pp.898-911.

Moore, N., J. Andresen, B. Lofgren, B. Pijanowski and D. Kim. (2014). Projected Land Cover Change Effects on East African Rainfall Under Climate Change. International Journal of Climatology. DOI: 10.1002/joc.4117