Regional modeling of climate change impacts on smallholder agriculture and ecosystems in Central America
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Climate change will have serious repercussions for agriculture, ecosystems, and farmer livelihoods in Central America. Smallholder farmers are particularly vulnerable due to their reliance on agriculture and ecosystem services for their livelihoods. There is an urgent need to develop national and local adaptation responses to reduce these impacts, yet evidence from historical climate change is fragmentary. Modeling efforts help bridge this gap. Here, we review the past decade of research on agricultural and ecological climate change impact models for Central America. The results of this review provide insights into the expected impacts of climate change and suggest policy actions that can help minimize these impacts. Modeling indicates future climate-driven changes, often declines, in suitability for Central American crops. Declines in suitability for coffee, a central crop in the regional economy, are noteworthy. Ecosystem models suggest that climate-driven changes are likely at low- and high-elevation montane forest transitions. Modeling of vulnerability suggests that smallholders in many parts of the region have one or more vulnerability factors that put them at risk. Initial adaptation policies can be guided by these existing modeling results. At the same time, improved modeling is being developed that will allow policy action specifically targeted to vulnerable groups, crops, and locations. We suggest that more robust modeling of ecological responses to climate change, improved representation of the region in climate models, and simulation of climate influences on crop yields and diseases (especially coffee leaf rust) are key priorities for future research.
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