Consequences of the Armed Conflict, Forced Human Displacement, and Land Abandonment on Forest Cover Change in Colombia: A Multi-scaled Analysis
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Most studies of land change have focused on patterns, rates, and drivers of deforestation, but much less is known about the dynamics associated with agricultural abandonment and ecosystem recovery. Furthermore, most studies are conducted at a single spatial scale, and few have included variables related with internal socio-political conflicts. Here we evaluated the effect of environmental, demographic, and socio-economic variables on woody cover change in Colombia between 2001 and 2010 at the country, biome, and ecoregion scales. We also incorporated factors that reflect the unique history of Colombia such as the presence of illegal-armed groups and forced human displacement. Environmental variables explained the patterns of deforestation and forest regrowth at all scales because they can restrict or encourage different land uses across multiple spatial scales. Demographic variables were important at the biome and ecoregion scales and appear to be a consequence of the armed conflict, particularly through forced human displacement (for example, rural–urban migration), which in some areas has resulted in forest regrowth. In other areas, the impact of illegal armed groups has reduced forest cover, particularly in areas rich in gold and lands appropriate for cattle grazing. This multi-scale and multivariate approach provides a new insight into the complex relationship between woody cover change and land abandonment triggered mainly by armed conflict.