Informing the carbon frontier : economics and landscape in the western Amazon



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In recent years, forestry carbon offset projects have been on the rise. While praised for their ability to offset emissions inexpensively, these programs are also criticized for their tendency to overlook other important social, environmental and economic processes. This thesis examines the site of a major carbon offset program in the western Amazon of Peru as a case study for multi-objective conservation planning. Using a recently released high resolution carbon dataset, this study first identifies areas of highest above ground carbon density. It then innovates by generating models for two additional conservation measures: forest connectivity and deforestation probability. While the forest connectivity model is informed by landscape ecology and is a more simple modification of least cost path, the deforestation model uses principles of economic rent to produce spatially explicit probabilities. By incorporating concepts of landscape ecology and economic rent, this work presents new models for the study area and adds to the theory surrounding multi-objective conservation planning. It also identifies if, how, and where three distinct conservation criteria can find commonalities. Unsurprisingly, the three criteria result in distinct spatial patterns. When all three are prioritized, less than 3% of the study area qualifies for priority. However, while this analysis highlights the difficulty of simultaneously prioritizing all three criteria, it also offers hope. Landscape-level analyses can help policymakers and conservation practitioners prioritize these limited areas while household-level and broader contextual information can help inform how initiatives are ultimately implemented. Given the limited area under all three criteria, stakeholders can strengthen efforts by encouraging connectivity-enhancing land use practices, incorporating areas where two criteria are met, or further facilitating nearby community involvement. As pressures to marry social, environmental and economic continue, incentive schemes will need to rethink these strategies and innovate, and further research should be conducted.