Theses Doctoral

Adaptation strategies to climate change in the Tropics: analysis of two multifactorial systems (high-altitude Andean ecosystems and Plasmodium falciparum malaria infections)

Ruiz Carrascal, Carlos Daniel

In this dissertation I focus my analyses of adaptation strategies to climate change on two areas of primary concern: (i) high-altitude ecosystems of the Tropical Andes, with particular interest in the so-called páramo ecosystems; and (ii) mosquito-borne diseases, focusing on Plasmodium falciparum malaria infections. My research on páramo ecosystems follows a six-tiered approach to understand the linkages between the ongoing changes in climatic conditions and the disruptions affecting the integrity of high-altitude environments. Activities conducted herein include the analyses of changes in atmospheric stability and lifting condensation levels; the diagnosis of changes in hydrological regimes; the assessment of the extent of life zones; the analyses of increases in the occurrence and rapid spread of high-altitude fires; the assessment of the integrity of páramo ecosystems; and the analyses of increases in climatic stress. Activities are conducted for three key, strategic, protected high-altitude Andean environments of the Tropical Andes and for the full length of the Andes Cordillera. My research findings provide elements for an improved understanding of the potential responses of Andean ecosystems to the large-scale rapidly changing climate and to a strongly-influential natural interannual variability. My research on P. falciparum malaria focuses on the analysis of the complexity behind the transmission dynamics of this multi-factorial disease. A deep understanding of such a complexity is possible through a holistic examination of the climatic, biological, socioeconomic, and demographic key-factors that are driving the fluctuations, changes and trends in malaria incidence. I propose a multi-model ensemble of malaria process-based models to offer useful information that could effectively guide decision-makers in risk assessment, malaria control investments and choice of interventions. I work on the integration of short-, medium- and long-term climate predictions into simulations of future changing scenarios, while helping to set up environment-informed systems at municipal level. My research thus provides a framework to: (a) compare the simulation outputs of several malaria process-based models with actual malaria morbidity profiles observed in several endemic- and epidemic-prone pilot sites in Colombia and Kenya; (b) explore the role that both climatic and non-climatic factors play in fluctuations and trends in malaria incidence, and analyze key confounders; (c) assess changing climate and future scenarios, and estimate the timing and possible magnitude of unexpected malaria outbreaks; (d) investigate current decision making processes, simulate the impact of indoor residual spraying campaigns, and provide quantitative goals for effective interventions; (e) conduct stability analysis; (f) pose and answer "what if" questions; and (g) stimulate an interactive learning environment to help decision makers learn.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Cane, Mark A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 20, 2013