Land Use and Global Change

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This course explores the interactions between land use, land cover, and environmental processes at multiple scales.  The emphasis is on understanding the interactions between land use changes and climate change.  These interactions are bi-directional: global land-use changes have been a significant source of carbon to the atmosphere, while climate change and variability requires adaptation and modification of land-use practices. Land-use modification provides one means of mitigating increases in atmospheric carbon due to fossil fuel burning.  Land-use change takes place in the context of a wide range of social, economic, and environmental processes. Understanding how land uses are, or should be, allocated to achieve multiple goals, including food and fiber production, space for human settlement, provision of ecosystem services, and access to renewable energy sources, requires consideration of these multiple objectives and of the various factors driving land-use decisions at multiple scales.


The course will involve readings, lectures and discussions on current scientific literature about the interactions between land-use change at multiple scales and global climate change.  We will meet twice weekly to discuss the implications of the literature, and evaluate contemporary approaches to monitoring, modeling and managing land use. 


The course will use a mixed instructional mode. Because of the wide range of topics covered and the inevitable variety of student interests, each topic will be addressed through both lecture and interactive discussion that draws on the varied expertise among the students.  Applications of the concepts will be explored through homework assignments and a semester project.

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Terms Offered

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This course is offered every other year.