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School of Geography

Luca Budello Luca Budello

Contact details

Room 10.15 Garstang
School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK



Project title

The Cerrado Biome in Transition: Modelling Global Change Impact on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services.

Project overview

In the past forty years the expansion of agriculture and pasture has transformed the biodiversity-rich Brazilian Cerrado hotspot into one of the world’s most threatened landscapes. According to the Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Cerrado is losing natural vegetation cover at a faster rate than any other Brazilian biome with an accumulated conversion of natural habitat of ca. 48.5% (or ca. 1 million Km2) since the early 70s. As the socio-economic mechanisms leading to these vast changes have been poorly documented, the consequences to biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services have not been properly assessed. Particularly, since the agricultural expansion of the Cerrado proceeds at relentless pace, it is unclear how conservation action can be implemented so to adequately safeguard the remarkable variation in plant biological diversity across this extraordinarily heterogeneous landscape.


The proposed research will aim to elucidate the connections between past and future land-use change and impacts on tree species diversity in the Brazilian Cerrado, with implications for non-forested tropical biomes. Specific research questions may include:

  • What is the best approach to estimate tree species range in the Cerrado based on data from census plots, herbaria, remote sensed datasets and modeling outputs?
  • What is the most likely trajectory of future land use / land cover in the Cerrado based on market trends, government policies, macroeconomic and microeconomic predictions?
  • Combining #1 and #2, what are the likely implications of “business-as-usual” future on tree biodiversity in the Cerrado?
  • How can different consumption, policy or technologies improve that trajectory?
  • What are the trade-offs netween co-occurring managemnt strategies? Can we protect biodiversity while increasing agricultural productivity?

The overall outcome will offer an independent estimate of ecosystem response to global change, which is suitable for policy interventions and land management for this highly threatened and biodiversity-rich savanna landscape.


Research Affiliations


  • 2014 NERC DTP 

Conference & Poster Presentations

  • NERC DTP Conference  (2015) - The Cerrado Biome in Transition: Modelling Global Change Impact on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services.
  • University of Leeds, School of Geography PGR Conference (2015) - The Cerrado Biome in Transition.
  • Emerge Cambridge Conference, Cambridge Judge Business School (2014) - How Social Entrepreneurship Can Tackle Environmental Issue.
  • Royal University of Phnom Penh, Master in Biodiversity Conservation (2012) - Reconciling Development and Conservation in Coastal Communities. Guest Lecture.
  • University of Cambridge Environmental Science Seminar Series (2011) - Modelling landscape effects on gene flow: Advances in landscape genetics and their value for conservation.
  • Anglia Ruskin University, Science Seminar Series (2009)  - Wildlife in the Classroom: wildlife filmmaking as a tool to foster the next generation of conservation educators.


  • 2014   2nd Rufford Foundation (£6,000) - Building Institutional Capacity Towards the Development of a Community-Led Coral Reef Management Programme in the Koh Sdach Archipelago, Cambodia.                          
  • 2013   IdeaWild (£1,000) - Assessing the applicability of low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle for the monitoring of long term changes in coral reefs.
  • 2012   Rufford Foundation (£6,000) - Development of a Community-Led Coral Reef Management Programme in the Koh Sdach Archipelago, Cambodia.
  • 2008   Anglia Ruskin University, Department of Life Science (£800) - Conference attendance, Wildscreen.
  • 2008   Anglia Trust Foundation Scholarship (£1,000) - Grant to participate to the Wildlife Film Academy Summer School in South Africa  

Training Courses Attended

  • 2015   Tropical Biology Fieldcourse,  Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
  • 2015   Mathematical Modelling for Environmental & Biological Sciences, University of Stirling, Scotland, UK.
  • 2015   Advancing in R programming for Synthetic Modelling, PR~Statistics, SCENE, Scotland, UK.


  • Cambridge Judge Business School - Fellow of Accelerate Cambridge @ CJBS.
  • British Ecological Society.

Conferences Attended

2015   BioSymposium, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

2013   Reef Conservation UK (RCUK) Annual Meeting, ZSL, London, UK.

2013   Great Apes Summit, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

2013   Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, Jackson, Wyoming.

2012   International Coral Reef Symposium, Cairns, Australia.

2011   Student Conference in Conservation Science (SCCS), University of Cambridge, UK.

2008   Wildscreen Film Festival, Bristol, UK.


Savage, J.M., Osborne, P.E., Hudson, M.D., Knapp, M.P., Budello, L. (2014). A current status assessment of the coral reefs in the Koh Sdach Archipelago, Cambodia. Cambodian J. Nat. Hist. 3: 47–54.