War and Agriculture: Three Decades of Agricultural Land Use and Land Cover Change in Iraq Dataset

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War and geopolitical forces are important drivers of land use and land cover change, and agricultural regions are the most susceptible to those types of changes. Iraq has suffered more than three decades of near-continuous war and instability, including the Iran-Iraq War (1980 to 1988), the Gulf War (1990 to 1991), comprehensive economic sanctions (1990 to 2003), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) (2003 to 2011). During these conflicts, Iraq’s landscapes were observed by civil satellite remote sensing systems. However, I found little published research applying remote sensing to assess the long-term effects of war on Iraq’s agricultural land cover. The main objective of this dissertation is to assess whether cultivated area in Iraq, as estimated using satellite remote sensing, changed during and as a result of war and sanctions, and to determine where and when changes occurred. The dissertation is composed of three studies. The first study uses MODIS NDVI data during the OIF and the end of UN sanctions to study changes in cultivated area for Iraq as a whole and to identify spatial patterns and temporal differences related to crop type. The second study uses Landsat images converted to NDVI to study changes in cultivated area in central Iraq for all four periods of conflict listed above, and relates those changes to effects on food security. Finally, the third study builds on findings from the second study to address patterns of agricultural land abandonment in central Iraq as related to three drivers: ecological, socio-economic, and land mismanagement. The overall findings indicate that the UN sanctions had the greatest impact on cultivated area, increasing during sanctions when food imports all but ceased and decreasing after the sanctions had ended and food imports resumed, significantly affecting land use and food security.


When all files are downloaded and extracted, the file structure is as shown in contents.txt

These contents are archived in multi-volume tar files using the following command:

printf 'n Gibson_Iraq-%03d.tar\n' {2..1000} | tar -ML 200000 -cf Gibson_Iraq-001.tar Gibson_Iraq/

Note, only GNU tar version 1.23 or newer (e.g., Red Hat/CentOS Linux version 6.x contains tar version 1.23) may be used to create and extract the tar files. Older versions contain a bug and cannot properly extract files across volumes when long file paths/names are present.

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printf 'n Gibson_Iraq-%03d.tar\n' {481..486} | tar --extract --multi-volume --file=Gibson_Iraq-480.tar



cultivation, sanctions, food security, food imports, land abandonment