Atmospheric Teleconnections and Anthropogenic Telecouplings Drive Land Change in Central Asian Highlands: How Environmental Changes, Migration, and Remittances Threaten Montane Agropastoralist Livelihoods and Community Viability
Due to remoteness and spare population, the highlands of Central Asia, particularly the Tien Shan and Pamir mountain ranges, have not received the amount of scientific investigation that they merit. In particular, this region can be regarded as a climate change hotspot as a result of being influenced by multiple climate oscillations. The last two IPCC Assessment Reports pointed out the paucity of information on the actual and potential impacts of climate change on natural and human systems. Our LCLUC project builds on our prior research findings in the region support to advance understanding of the land change occurring in the rural highlands of montane Central Asia due both to changing environmental conditions and socioeconomic processes. Our study region encompasses all highland pastures between 1800 and 4800 m amsl in the Tien Shan and Pamir mountain ranges in Central Asia. This area includes much of Kyrgyzstan (92.3K km2) and Tajikistan (56.3K km2), and smaller portions of Kazakhstan (15.1K km2), Uzbekistan (12.6K km2), and Turkmenistan (158 km2). The project’s three key questions are: (1) How, where, and when do changes in environmental drivers affect pasture productivity and land degradation? (2) How, where, and when do environmental changes (e.g., changing snow season, natural disasters, pasture degradation, risk perception) trigger/drive migration? and (3) How, where, and when do migration and remittances increase risk of pasture & land degradation? We focus on quantifying the various factors affecting migration out of the region, with a particular emphasis on pasture degradation (loss of productivity) and natural disasters, and the effects of feedback from urban to rural systems through migrant remittances back home. We leverage advances in Cubesat sensing in synergy with conventional sensor data to enhance the capacity for resolving land surface phenology and productivity dynamics. We also leverage ground data from a network of sites in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan collected by four teams over the past decade. We bring together US expertise in landscape ecology, quantitative remote sensing, and environmental demography with a team of young investigators from Central
Asia through the University of Central Asia and the Tajik Agrarian University. This project addresses multiple aspects of the current LCLUC call including: (1) Central Asia; (2) land degradation; (3) agricultural smallholders; (4) linkages between urban and rural populations that affect land change; and (5) international collaboration. This project builds upon recent LCLUC support to make major technical advances in characterizing, analyzing, and assessing landscape dynamics in mountain land systems where agropastoralism is the foundational rural livelihood.