Human Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 21–36 | Cite as

Dynamics of Shifting Cultivation Landscapes in Northern Lao PDR Between 2000 and 2009 Based on an Analysis of MODIS Time Series and Landsat Images

  • Kaspar HurniEmail author
  • Cornelia Hett
  • Andreas Heinimann
  • Peter Messerli
  • Urs Wiesmann


The rotational nature of shifting cultivation poses several challenges to its detection by remote sensing. Consequently, there is a lack of spatial data on the dynamics of shifting cultivation landscapes on a regional, i.e. sub-national, or national level. We present an approach based on a time series of Landsat and MODIS data and landscape metrics to delineate the dynamics of shifting cultivation landscapes. Our results reveal that shifting cultivation is a land use system still widely and dynamically utilized in northern Laos. While there is an overall reduction in the areas dominated by shifting cultivation, some regions also show an expansion. A review of relevant reports and articles indicates that policies tend to lead to a reduction while market forces can result in both expansion and reduction. For a better understanding of the different factors affecting shifting cultivation landscapes in Laos, further research should focus on spatially explicit analyses.


Shifting cultivation MODIS Landsat landscape metrics Lao PDR 



This work was supported by the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North–South and co-funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Furthermore, this research has benefited from collaborations of the I-REDD+ project of the European Commission Framework Project (FP7-ENV-2010), The Agrobiodiversity Initiative in Lao PDR (TABI) project funded by SDC as well as a grant from the Danish Social Science Research Council, and the exchange within the Global Land Project (GLP)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kaspar Hurni
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cornelia Hett
    • 1
  • Andreas Heinimann
    • 1
  • Peter Messerli
    • 1
  • Urs Wiesmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), Institute of GeographyUniversity of BernBerneSwitzerland

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