The Relative Importance of Socioeconomic and Environmental Variables in Explaining Land Change in Bolivia, 2001–2010

Annals of the Association of American Geographers (Impact Factor: 2.17). 07/2012; 102:778-807. DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2012.678036

ABSTRACT This study assesses the relationship between trends in land change from 2001 to 2010 and socioeconomic and environmental variables in Bolivia at multiple spatial scales using a nonparametric, tree-based modeling approach. It also explores the theoretical dimensions surrounding the debate over the relative importance of socioeconomic and environmental variables in explaining land change. Results from the land change analysis show several hotspots of dynamic change. The majority of woody vegetation loss occurred in the eastern lowlands of Santa Cruz, Beni, and Pando and was attributable to the expansion of industrial agriculture. Gains in woody vegetation took place in the drylands of Santa Cruz and Beni savanna, and these changes were attributed to shifting patterns in precipitation and fire rather than human-induced change. Other hotspots of woody vegetation gain were attributed to abandonment of agriculture and herbaceous lands in the intermontane valleys of the southern Andes. Regression analyses showed that population and other demographic variables were poor predictors of land change. There is a clear relationship, however, between changes in woody and agriculture/herbaceous vegetation and environmental variables such as precipitation, temperature, and elevation. Municipalities with adequate precipitation and moderate temperature tended to show increases in agriculture and herbaceous vegetation and woody vegetation declines. Woody vegetation tended to increase in municipalities at higher elevations. This study also shows that explanations of only wealth or population as the main drivers of land change undervalue the role that natural features, like topography and precipitation, play in limiting or permitting certain land-use decisions. Este estudio evalúa la relación entre las tendencias de cambios de la tierra de 2001 a 2010 y variables socioeconómicas y ambientales en Bolivia, a escalas espaciales múltiples, utilizando un enfoque de modelo no paramétrico basado en el árbol. El estudio también explora las dimensiones teóricas de rodean el debate sobre la importancia relativa de las variables socioeconómicas y ambientales para explicar las transformaciones de la tierra. Los resultados del análisis del cambio de uso de la tierra muestran varios puntos críticos con cambio dinámico. La mayor parte de la pérdida de vegetación arbórea ocurrió en las tierras bajas orientales de Santa Cruz, Beni y Pando, proceso que se atribuye a la expansión de la agricultura industrial. Lo que se ha ganado en recuperación de vegetación arbórea ocurrió en las tierras secas de Santa Cruz y en la sabana de Beni, cambios que se han atribuido a los cambiantes patrones de precipitaciones y fuego más que a cambios inducidos por el hombre. Otros puntos notables de avance de la vegetación arbórea se atribuyen al abandono de tierras agrícolas y pastizales en los valles intermontanos de los Andes sureños. Los análisis de regresión mostraron que la población y otras variables demográficas resultaron ser pobres vaticinadores de cambios de la tierra. Hay, sin embargo, una relación clara entre los cambios de vegetación arbórea y agricultura/vegetación herbácea y variables ambientales tales como precipitación, temperatura y elevación. Los municipios que tenían precipitación adecuada y temperatura moderada tendían a mostrar incrementos en agricultura y vegetación herbácea, y declinación de la vegetación arbórea. La vegetación herbácea tendía a aumentar en los municipios situados a mayor elevación. Este estudio también muestra que las explicaciones que asignan a la riqueza y a la población la responsabilidad de causar los cambios de la tierra subvaloran el papel que juegan elementos naturales como la topografía y la precipitación para limitar o permitir ciertas decisiones relacionadas con los usos del suelo.

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    ABSTRACT: Increasing water use and droughts, along with climate variability and land use change, have seriously altered vegetation growth patterns and ecosystem response in several regions alongside the Andes Mountains. Thirty years of the new generation biweekly normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI3g) time series data show significant land cover specific trends and variability in annual productivity and land surface phenological response. Productivity is represented by the growing season mean NDVI values (July to June). Arid and semi-arid and sub humid vegetation types (Atacama desert, Chaco and Patagonia) across Argentina, northern Chile, northwest Uruguay and southeast Bolivia show negative trends in productivity, while some temperate forest and agricultural areas in Chile and sub humid and humid areas in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru show positive trends in productivity. The start (SOS) and length (LOS) of the growing season results show large variability and regional hot spots where later SOS often coincides with reduced productivity. A longer growing season is generally found for some locations in the south of Chile (sub-antarctic forest) and Argentina (Patagonia steppe), while central Argentina (Pampa-mixed grasslands and agriculture) has a shorter LOS. Some of the areas have significant shifts in SOS and LOS of one to several months. The seasonal Multivariate ENSO Indicator (MEI) and the Antarctic Oscillation (AAO) index have a significant impact on vegetation productivity and phenology in southeastern and northeastern Argentina (Patagonia and Pampa), central and southern Chile (mixed shrubland, temperate and sub-antarctic forest), and Paraguay (Chaco).
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    ABSTRACT: 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.
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