The Application of Geographic Information Systems to climate change & land evaluation : a study of the effects of climate change upon crop productivity in a sub-tropical environment

  • Jane Davenport

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research investigates the contribution that Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can make to the land suitability process used to determine the effects of a climate change scenario. The research is intended to redress the severe under representation of Developing countries within the literature examining the impacts of climatic change upon crop productivity. The methodology adopts some of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates for regional climate variations, based upon General Circulation Model predictions (GCMs) and applies them to a baseline climate for Bangladesh. Utilising the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organisation's Agro-ecological Zones land suitability methodology and crop yield model, the effects of the scenario upon agricultural productivity on 14 crops are determined. A Geographic Information System (IDRISI) is adopted in order to facilitate the methodology, in conjunction with a specially designed spreadsheet, used to determine the yield and suitability rating for each crop. A simple optimisation routine using the GIS is incorporated to provide an indication of the 'maximum theoretical' yield available to the country, should the most calorifically significant crops be cultivated on each land unit both before and after the climate change scenario. This routine will provide an estimate of the theoretical population supporting capacity of the country, both now and in the future, to assist with planning strategies and research. The research evaluates the utility of this alternative GIS based methodology for the land evaluation process and determines the relative changes in crop yields that may result from changes in temperature, photosynthesis and flooding hazard frequency. In summary, the combination of a GIS and a spreadsheet was successful, the yield prediction model indicates that the application of the climate change scenario will have a deleterious effect upon the yields of the study crops. Any yield reductions will have severe implications for agricultural practices. The optimisation routine suggests that the 'theoretical maximum' population supporting capacity is well in excess of current and future population figures. If this agricultural potential could be realised however, it may provide some amelioration from the effects of climate change.
Date of AwardApr 1996
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn Elgy (Supervisor)


  • land evaluation
  • climate change
  • agro-ecological zones (AEZ)
  • application of Geographic Information Systems
  • crop productivity

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