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 INTEGRATED AGRICULTURAL WATER AND LAND USE MANAGEMENT FOR CONSERVING WATER, CARBON, AND AVIAN BIODIVERSITY UNDER CLIMATE CHANGE: A SYNTHESIS APPROACH

Abstract
   California has diversified landscapes and complex water networks, contributing to its intertwined ecosystems’ relations so that biodiversity conservation and human socio-economic development share close to the same set of water and land resources. Biodiversity is threatened by climate change. Intermediate conservation actions are required and need to be supported by scientific information that minimizes the trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and human socio-economic development.
   In this doctoral research, I designed a synthesis future-oriented approach that integrates multi-disciplinary methods, namely economic optimization, remote sensing, ecological modeling of species distribution, and systematic conservation plan. With this approach, I aim to help us find the conservation solutions that are good today but also are going to be good 100 years from now. I applied this approach to California’s Central Valley and predicted the weekly ranges of locally prevalent shorebird species and water and land opportunity costs with climate change scenarios. The conservation actions considered in this research are to create dynamic flooded habitats on agricultural lands as a nature-based solution to carbon sequestration, groundwater overdraft, and shorebird conservation. Conservation prioritization was created based not only on species’ seasonal dynamics but also on varying seasonal costs resulting from timed land use on a cultured landscape of California and a range of water availability scenarios. I considered both spatial and temporal hydrological connectivity, which gives broader implications for conserving aquatic species such as fish and amphibians than avian species only.
   I found that if we navigate the use of environmental flow in a relatively blind way, it will significantly conflict with agricultural production with minimal positive ecosystem benefits. To do it right, we must understand the new hydrological patterns and build more storage to make use of excess flows, particularly in the southern part of Central Valley. Climate change and water conservation management will increase the costs of water used for environmental use. The intellectual merit of this thesis is synthesizing different metrologies across disciplines and making broader implications for integrated agricultural land use and water management in California for climate change adaptation and ecosystem conservation.
   

Biography
   Liying Li is a PhD Candidate in the Environmental Systems graduate program at UC Merced. She graduated from the London School of Economics in the UK with an M.Sc. in Environmental Policy and Regulation. In line with her interest in assisting decision-making in climate change adaptation and environmental policies, she has been studying climate change adaptation and greenhouse mitigations. After joining UC Merced, Liying extended her studies to include water allocation optimization, ecological modeling, and conservation planning with climate change.
   
 

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