Yaoqi Zhang, professor in Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, and Henry Kinnucan, professor in Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, have been awarded $482,000 to model the interactions of natural and human systems on the Mongolian Plateau as part of a 5-year, $1.4 million interdisciplinary grant from the National Science Foundation. The project, “Ecosystems and Societies: Divergent Trajectories and Coevolution,” will examine the connection between natural and human systems through the lens of land use and land cover changes driven by climate and socio-economic forces. The project will provide information vital to understanding vulnerabilities and possible adaptation strategies for large areas where dramatic changes of climate and socio-economic systems are taking place.
This project was funded as part of the NSF’s Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) program, which promotes collaborative research across diverse disciplines, particularly between social scientists and natural scientists.
Dr. Zhang will lead the socio-economic and human system part of the study in collaboration with Dr. Jiquan Chen from University of Toledo, who will lead the ecological and natural system part of the study. The project team hypothesizes that while climate change has created significant pressure on ecosystems and societies in the plateau, the human elements such as population growth, urbanization, and technology have also had a significant effect on the interaction between human and natural systems.
Dr. Zhang is professor of forest economics and policy at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University. He received his Ph.D. from University of Helsinki in 2001. He has been working on land use/cover change, demand and supply of ecosystem services from forests, economic reforms, private and family forestry and published close to 100 journal articles and book chapters. He teaches forest economics and ecological economics.