Global Sensitivity and Uncertainty Analysis in the Evaluation of Social-Ecological Resilience: Theoretical Debates Over Infrastructure Impacts on Livelihoods and Forest Change

New road infrastructure leads to numerous changes in affected regions, including economic integration, environmental degradation, and conflicts over natural resources. This project will apply a systems approach that features resilience as an integrative concept to bring together economic, ecological and social science perspectives to better understand infrastructure impacts. To evaluate system resilience to infrastructure, this project will use global sensitivity and uncertainty analysis to quantify the probability that a key indicator of system state will go past a critical threshold, i.e., a tipping point, indicating loss of resilience via a change in system state. The study system for this work is the frontier of the southwestern Amazon, a highly biodiverse region in which highway paving is underway. The project will focus on two key issues that have been debated by scholars who study infrastructure impacts: changes in land tenure and livelihoods. The research will draw from different theoretical perspectives on these issues to model specific changes in land ownership, use, and livelihoods, which in turn affect two key indicators of system state: forest cover and forest value. Dynamic simulation models will be developed to compare model output for forest cover and forest value as they depend on different assumptions about how highway paving affects tenure and livelihoods. Simulation models will be integrated with sensitivity analysis to assess model uncertainty in predicting changes in forest cover and forest value, and to assess system resilience to highway paving.

This project will strengthen collaborative ties between University of Florida and partner institutions in Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru, and build tri-national capacity for social-ecological research in the Amazon. Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars will be trained and gain experience in collaborative, interdisciplinary and international team research. The study region has local governments and other stakeholders with needs for greater access to scientific findings regarding infrastructure. This project will disseminate research results using an innovative knowledge exchange model designed to reach hundreds of stakeholders. Such outreach and dialogue will support broader public participation in environmental planning by regional governments. The modeling approach developed in this project will also contribute to understanding for other problems such as climate change and global market shifts.

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