Emerging trends of tropical dry forests loss in North & Central America during 2001-2013

Related GLP Member: Carlos Portillo


Historical anthropogenic pressures on tropical dry forests (TDF) have led to the loss of more than 50% of its potential coverage worldwide. However, information on the temporal and spatial dynamics of TDF deforestation or disturbance is scarce. In this study, we present a national and sub-national level assessment of TDF loss patterns in Mexico and Central America at high spatial and temporal resolutionusing remote sensing and GIS technologies. We used the Global Forest Change (GFC) dataset published by Hansen et al. (2013) which shows detected forest loss at 30-m pixel resolution at interannual rates from 2000 through 2013. We analyzed TDF loss within a peer reviewed moderate resolution map of TDF extent based on 2004 satellite imagery, eliminated potential sources of errors and enforced all polygons to correspond to forest loss only within TDF dominated cover. We analyzed trends in the magnitude of deforestation (total forest loss area) and TDF loss patch size as well as density of forest loss across the region. We also investigated the spatial pattern of increasing or decreasing temporal trends of forest loss by applying a space-time hotspot analysis. For the 2001–2013 period, we identified five areas where TDF loss was high and had the tendency to increase; while widespread low TDF loss with the tendency to decrease was found across most Central America countries and most of the Pacific coast of Mexico. Contextual and underlying causative factors vary, conforming to cultural and socioeconomic differences across the region, with rural migration, small-scale agricultural expansion, agricultural intensification, oil palm expansion and cattle ranching amongst the main causes of TDF conversion.