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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Year Degree Awarded

Summer 2014

First Advisor

Timothy Randhir

Second Advisor

Curtice Griffin

Third Advisor

Stephen DeStefano

Fourth Advisor

Stanley Stevens

Subject Categories

Agricultural and Resource Economics | Biodiversity | Population Biology

Abstract

Assessment and management of ecosystem services demands diverse knowledge of the system components. Land use change occurring mainly through deforestation, expansion of agriculture and unregulated extraction of natural resources are the greatest challenges of the Congo basin and yet is central to supporting over 100 million people. This study undertook to implement an integrated modeling of multiscale ecosystems of central African watersheds and model the impact of anthropogenic factors on elephant population in Greater Virunga landscape. The study was conducted at varied scales, regional, landscape, and community. Regional study included watershed analysis and hydrological assessment using remotely sensed data implemented in Geographical information System. Species distribution modeling using generalized linear models using presence only and pseudo absence data was also done at regional scale.

The major findings were that ecosystem services for the Congo basin are spatially varied and there are significant differences in their distribution of ecosystem services at a subwatershed level three and six and the distribution of endangered and threatened species is more concentrated in the central part of the basin and most of these species occur mainly inside protected areas. Poaching and sustained civil wars were the biggest threat to elephant conservation in the region. Improvement in law enforcement, monitoring, and increasing household incomes for communities living adjacent to protected areas would help to reduce the impact of poaching on elephant population dynamics. Climate change did not show immediate direct impacts on the elephant population, but thermal and latent heat effects could be occurring. A change in habitat, however, showed resulted in an upward trend in elephant population for all age classes. The local communities heavily depend on these ecosystem services for their livelihoods. It is therefore recommended that reasonable financing to strengthen law enforcement and monitoring is done, multiple policy options should be considered in order to maximize ecosystem benefits. Creation of partnerships and research networks need to be promoted. Existing transboundary collaboration initiatives should continue and be supported by the donor community in order to build peace and dram support for wildlife and wild habitat protection.

Comments

Soil loss, water quality and quantity, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity conservation

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