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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2005  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 174-200

Comparative Spatial Analyses of Forest Conservation and Change in Honduras and Guatemala

1 Department of Anthropology, SB130, 701 E. Kirkwood, Indiana Univeristy, Bloomington, and Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change (CIPEC), Indiana University, 408 N. Indiana, Bloomington, 47405-7100, USA
2 Department of Geography, and Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, Ohio State University, 154 N. Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
3 Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change (CIPEC), Indiana University, 408 N. Indiana, Bloomington, IN 47408, USA
4 Department of Geography, and Land Use and Environmental Change Institute (LUECI), University of Florida, 3141 TUR, PO Box 117315, Gainesville, FL 32611-7315, USA

Correspondence Address:
Catherine M Tucker
Department of Anthropology, 701 E. Kirkwood, SB130, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-7100
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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The degradation of dry tropical forests proceeds more rapidly than that of most moist tropical forests, but despite their importance for human populations as a source of products and environmental services, dry tropical forests rarely become the focus of conservation efforts. This study explores processes of land cover change in study sites in eastern Guatemala and western Honduras, where dry tropical forests have been declining with the introduction and expansion of export market crops, especially coffee. Through analyses of remotely sensed images, landscape metrics, and spatially explicit econometric modelling, the transformations occurring across these landscapes are examined and compared for the period between 1987 and 1996. The results show that the Guatemala region presents greater forest fragmentation, well-developed transportation networks and immigration in a context of strong linkages to coffee export markets. Net forest regrowth occurs in the Honduran region, while net deforestation occurs in the Guatemalan region. Spatially explicit models indicate that market accessibility and topography alone explain about 60% of the total variation in Honduras, but only 51% of the variation in Guatemala. Integration of social data collected through fieldwork indicates that a higher degree of community organisation to protect forests in Honduras is an important factor in the lower rate of forest transformation, as compared to Guatemala for the same period. In both cases, there is a high degree of dynamism and apparent cyclical patterns in land cover change. These results suggest that attention to human and ecological cycles, as well as market, infrastructural and topographic factors, can contribute to the development of effective approaches for the conservation of tropical dry forests.

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