Evaluating Future Impacts of Climate Change on Traditional Mexican Maize Suitability and Indigenous Communities in Mexico
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Anthropogenic climate change is expected to have dramatic impacts on natural and human systems worldwide in the near future. Ensuring food security for an exponentially-increasing world population requires extensive research from a variety of disciplines. Maize, a globally-important food crop, evolved from a single location in the Balsas River Basin in southwestern Mexico thousands of years ago via artificial selection from indigenous Mexican communities. Ample research has evaluated the effects of bioclimatic and societal influences on maize diversity and distribution in Mexico in contemporary eras. This research utilizes ensemble maximum-entropy ecological niche modeling (ENM) using biomod2 and MaxEnt in R to evaluate current and future patterns of traditional Mexican maize landrace (n = 46) distributions and diversity using high-resolution data at the national-level in Mexico. This research uncovered an unambiguous statistical association between indigeneity and the distribution of maize diversity across Mexico from groupings of maize landraces derived from hierarchical clustering of ensemble variable importance loadings. Forecasts of maize landrace distributions to the future reveal drastic changes in traditional Mexican maize suitability nationally with an average median decrease in maize suitability land area by roughly -51%. This research finds that particular indigenous communities in southern Mexico are at higher risk of being impacted by maize diversity loss via climate change relative to non-indigenous populations for specific maize groupings identified. This thesis identifies the locations of these communities to prioritize future sustainable maize agricultural practices, as well as community outreach, in order to maintain current levels of maize productivity and diversity in Mexico, but also linkages to the associated ancestral food traditions.