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An assessment of tropical dryland forest ecosystem biomass and climate change impacts in the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) region of Southern Africa

DAVID, RUUSA-MAGANO (2022) An assessment of tropical dryland forest ecosystem biomass and climate change impacts in the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) region of Southern Africa. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The dryland forests of the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) region in Southern Africa are highly susceptible to disturbances from an increase in human population, wildlife pressures and the impacts of climate change. In this environment, reliable forest extent and structure estimates are difficult to obtain because of the size and remoteness of KAZA (519,912 km²). Whilst satellite remote sensing is generally well-suited to monitoring forest characteristics, there remain large uncertainties about its application for assessing changes at a regional scale to quantify forest structure and biomass in dry forest environments. This thesis presents research that combines Synthetic Aperture Radar, multispectral satellite imagery and climatological data with an inventory from a ground survey of woodland in Botswana and Namibia in 2019. The research utilised a multi-method approach including parametric and non-parametric algorithms and change detection models to address the following objectives: (1) To assess the feasibility of using openly accessible remote sensing data to estimate the dryland forest above ground biomass (2) to quantify the detail of vegetation dynamics using extensive archives of time series satellite data; (3) to investigate the relationship between fire, soil moisture, and drought on dryland vegetation as a means of characterising spatiotemporal changes in aridity. The results establish that a combination of radar and multispectral imagery produced the best fit to the ground observations for estimating forest above ground biomass. Modelling of the time-series shows that it is possible to identify abrupt changes, longer-term trends and seasonality in forest dynamics. The time series analysis of fire shows that about 75% of the study area burned at least once within the 17-year monitoring period, with the national parks more frequently affected than other protected areas. The results presented show a significant increase in dryness over the past 2 decades, with arid and semi-arid regions encroaching at the expense of dry sub-humid, particularly in the south of the region, notably between 2011-2019.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 Dec 2022 11:20

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