Drivers of Forest Cover Dynamics in Smallholder Farming Systems: The Case of Northwestern Vietnam
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The national-scale forest recovery of Vietnam started in the early 1990s and is associated with a shift from net deforestation to net reforestation. Large disparities in forest cover dynamics are, however, observed at the local scale. This study aims to unravel the mechanisms driving forest cover change for a mountainous region located in northwest Vietnam. Statistical analyses were used to explore the association between forest cover change and household characteristics. In Sa Pa district, deforestation rates are decreasing, but forest degradation continues at similar rates. Deforestation is not necessarily associated with impoverished ethnic communities or high levels of subsistence farming, and the largest forest cover dynamics are found in villages with the best socio-economic conditions. Our empirical study does not provide strong evidence of a dominant role of agriculture in forest cover dynamics. It shows that empirical studies on local-scale forest dynamics remain important to unravel the complexity of human–environment interactions.
KeywordsForest transition Vietnam Ethnic minorities Subsistence agriculture Poverty
This research was part of the bilateral scientific project on ‘Land-use change under impact of socio-economic development and its implications on environmental services in Vietnam’ funded by the Belgian Science Policy (Grant SPP PS BL/00/V26) and the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). We thank Eric Lambin, Nguyen Hieu, Patrick Meyfroidt and Kim Chi Vu for their very useful suggestions.
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