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Master of Environmental Data Science
(2023)

Informing Forest Conservation Regulations in Paraguay

River running through a vast lush landscape, clouds in a blue sky

Group Members: Atahualpa (Ata) Ayala, Dalila Lara, Alexandria (Alex) Reed, Guillermo Romero

Faculty Advisors: Robert Heilmayr

Client: UCSB Bren School & Environmental Studies Department

Deliverables:

Proposal 

Technical Documentation

Final Presentation

Description

The Gran Chaco, a vast 87-million-hectare ecoregion, stretches across Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. A significant portion, about 23%, lies in western Paraguay, making up 60% of the country's total land area. This region, known as the Paraguayan Chaco, is currently grappling with severe environmental degradation due to deforestation, primarily driven by cattle ranching. To manage this, landowners must submit land use plans (LUPs) that comply with forestry laws enforced by Paraguay's National Forestry Institute (INFONA). With tensions rising between economic development and forest conservation, policymakers face the challenge of understanding the potential impact of modifying these laws on forest conservation. This project estimates how changes to the rules governing private LUPs could affect the extent of forest cover and agricultural land in the Paraguayan Chaco through a four-step approach: (1) Assess property owners' compliance that deforestation only occurs in authorized areas and determine deforestation rates by using geospatial overlays, (2) Estimate protected forest area under different potential laws in the undeveloped Paraguayan Chaco region by creating mock properties with simulated land use plans, (3) Integrate the simulated LUP configurations into a machine learning model to examine how potential changes to land use laws might influence future deforestation patterns, and (4) To inform forest conservation regulations by providing INFONA and other stakeholders with an interactive platform for exploring the results. Our partnership with INFONA can significantly impact the future of land use policy requirements, implementation, and enforcement using our results and interactive tool. This tool offers comprehensive data visualization and serves as an inclusive platform that democratizes access to critical information, making it easily accessible to all individuals.

Acknowledgements

Paraguay's National Forestry Institute (INFONA): Cristina Goraleswki, President; Antonella Mascheroni, Director of Planning

Bren School: Samantha Csik, Data Training Coordinator; Robert Heilmayr, Assistant Professor; Kat Le, Technical Applications Manager; Brian Lee, PhD Candidate; Casey O'Hara, Lecturer; Ruth Oliver, Assistant Professor; Naomi Tague, Professor

UCSB: Kathy Baylis, Professor; Pratyush Tripathy, PhD Student

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