Accessibility as a determinant of landscape transformation in western Honduras: linking pattern and process
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This study evaluates the relationship between landscape accessibility and land cover change in Western Honduras, and demonstrates how these relationships are influenced by social and economic processes of land use change in the region. The study area presents a complex mosaic of land cover change processes that involve approximately equal amounts of reforestation and deforestation. Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) satellite imagery of 1987, 1991 and 1996 was used to create three single date classifications and a land cover change image depicting the sequence of changes in land cover between 1987–1991–1996. An accessibility analysis examined land cover change and landscape fragmentation relative to elevation and distance from roads. Between 1987 and 1991, results follow ‘expected’ trends, with more accessible areas experiencing greater deforestation and fragmentation. Between 1991 and 1996 this trend reverses. Increased deforestation is found in areas distant from roads, and at higher elevations; a result of government policies promoting expansion of mountain coffee production for export. A ban on logging, and abandonment of marginally productive agricultural fields due to agricultural intensification in other parts of the landscape, has led to increased regrowth in accessible regions of the landscape. Roads and elevation also present different obstacles in terms of their accessibility, with the smallest patches of cyclical clearing and regrowth, relating mostly to the agricultural fallow cycle, found at the highest elevations but located close to roads. This research highlights the need to locate analyses of land cover change within the context of local socio-economic policies and land use processes.
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