Article

A landscape mosaics approach for characterizing swidden systems from a REDD+.

Applied Geography (Impact Factor: 3.08). 03/2012; 32(2):608-618. DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2011.07.011

ABSTRACT

Swidden agriculture is often deemed responsible for deforestation and forest degradation in tropical regions, yet swidden landscapes are commonly not visible on land cover/use maps, making it difficult to prove this assertion. For a future REDD+ scheme, the correct identification of deforestation and forest degradation and linking these processes to land use is crucial. However, it is a key challenge to distinguish degradation and deforestation from temporal vegetation dynamics inherent to swiddening. In this article we present an approach for spatial delineation of swidden systems based on landscape mosaics. Furthermore we introduce a classification for change processes based on the change matrix of these landscape mosaics. Our approach is illustrated by a case study in Viengkham district in northern Laos. Over a 30-year time period the swidden landscapes have increased in extent and they have degraded, shifting from long crop-fallow cycles to short cycles. From 2007 to 2009 degradation within the swidden system accounted for half of all the landscape mosaics change processes. Pioneering shifting cultivation did not prevail. The landscape mosaics approach could be used in a swidden compatible monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system of a future REDD+ framework.

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Available from: Jean-Christophe Castella
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    • "The diversity of species assemblages within these heterogeneous shifting cultivation mosaics have been shown in many cases to be higher than under conditions of contiguous mature forest cover (Xu et al. 2009). Swidden systems incorporate a broad diversity of species and cultivars both within the cropping area as well as in fallows in order to provide for diverse dietary needs of shifting cultivators, to spread risk in the event of crop failure, and to distribute labour requirements (Hett et al. 2012;Schiller et al. 2006). Ethnobotanical surveys of similar upland swidden landscapes in the region found an average of 60–70 domesticated and semi-domesticated species in upland rice fields and a further 25 species which had been incorporated into adjacent fallow lands (Rerkasem et al. 2009), presenting a much higher degree of agrobiodiversity than intensive, sedentary agricultural alternatives. "
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    • "However, this presents critical methodological challenges. First, it requires evaluation of the dynamic change in both forest cover and land use configurations through time [20] [21]. The data required to support such analyses are often not available over extended time periods and at broad spatial extents. "
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    • "In contrast, monitoring deforestation associated with subsistence agriculture poses a greater challenge, since the disturbances are smaller and the long-term net carbon outcomes less certain (Ziegler et al., 2012). Small-scale deforestation therefore requires investigation at a finer scale, such as through the use of very high resolution imagery, or through other innovative spatial techniques, such as classifying change processes using " landscape mosaics " (Hett et al., 2012). Conversely, forest degradation processes and their specific drivers are more difficult to detect through remote sensing. "

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