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The Ecology of Conflict: Using Time Series Remote Sensing to Quantify Ecological Patterns, Resilience, and Rebounds in Conflict Impacted Regions of Africa

Authors: Erin Bunting*, Michigan State University, Elizabeth Mack, Michigan State University; Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences, Jane Southworth, University of Florida; Department of Geography, Hannah Hererro, University of Tennessee; Department of Geography
Topics: Remote Sensing, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Africa
Keywords: Conflict, Africa, Remote Sensing, Vulnerability, Resilience
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Of the human activities that impact the landscape and produce ecological change, conflict, both small and large scale, is both far-reaching and intensive. Conflict events, from small scale protest to remote violence to warfare, influence multiple factors of natural capital including environmental regimes and water resources. However, the environmental dimension of conflict is commonly overlooked, potentially because of disparate data. This Africa-based study, analyzes changes in environmental regimes over the course of conflict events to understand the pattern, scale, and type of conflict events that impact environmental regimes. Using time series remote sensing approaches with MODIS and AVHRR data and metrics, including persistence and tipping points, we focus on multiple stages of environmental health and resilience (pre-conflict, conflict, and post-conflict). The time series imagery spans the early 1980’s to current, and is analyzed in tandem with conflict event point data from the African Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) that have been converted to polygons using event density methodologies. While looking at trends and ecological tipping points this work also assesses the long-lasting, potentially permanent, fingerprint that conflict has on a landscape. For example, longer term conflict events may promote landscape degradation and land cover conversion. It is critically important to understand such trends and socio-ecological rebound in post conflict landscapes as populations most vulnerable to changing conditions are, typically, left to reside in these locations and pick up the pieces.

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