, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 394-403
Date: 23 Aug 2005

Land-Use and Land-Cover Change in Montane Mainland Southeast Asia

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Abstract

This paper summarizes land-cover and land-use change at eight sites in Thailand, Yunnan (China), Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos over the last 50 years. Project methodology included incorporating information collected from a combination of semiformal, key informant, and formal household interviews with the development of spatial databases based on aerial photographs, satellite images, topographic maps, and GPS data. Results suggest that land use (e.g. swidden cultivation) and land cover (e.g. secondary vegetation) have remained stable and the minor amount of land-use change that has occurred has been a change from swidden to monocultural cash crops. Results suggest that two forces will increasingly determine land-use systems in this region. First, national land tenure policies—the nationalization of forest lands and efforts to increase control over upland resources by central governments—will provide a push factor making it increasingly difficult for farmers to maintain their traditional swidden land-use practices. Second, market pressures—the commercialization of subsistence resources and the substitution of commercial crops for subsistence crops—will provide a pull factor encouraging farmers to engage in new and different forms of commercial agriculture. These results appear to be robust as they come from eight studies conducted over the last decade. But important questions remain in terms of what research protocols are needed, if any, when linking social science data with remotely sensed data for understanding human-environment interactions.