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"One Forest, Three Countries. . ." by Dalia Amor Conde

One Forest, Three Countries: Forecasting Deforestation
and Economic Impact of Roads in the Mayan Forest.

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Dalia Amor Conde
PhD Candidate Duke University
Email: dac21@duke.edu

The Mayan forest is the largest remnant tropical forest in the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot. In spite of national and international conservation strategies to reduce deforestation rates, such as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, the rate of forest loss has been steadily increasing since 1970. In addition to an increase in deforestation in the region, a major development project proposed to connect a series of roads is planned. The objective of the present analysis is to forecast the impact of the roads on the Mayan forest in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, and to understand their role on deforestation dynamics. Together with UPC* a Mexican NGO and the Conservation Strategy Fund, we used the RED** model to implement a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed roads for each of the countries. To quantify the historic deforestation trends in the region we analyzed LADSAT satellite images for three time periods (late 1970s, 1970s-1990, and 1990s-2000). Our land-cover change analysis showed differences in the trend of deforestation dynamics between the three countries. Belize showed a large reduction in deforestation, Mexico has had a steady increase, and Guatemala showed an exponential deforestation increase between 1990 and 2000. Our results show that roads distance and density resulted to be a robust and significant predictor of deforestation. Our cost-benefit analysis suggests that the economic benefits associated with proposed road building will not be sufficient to counterbalance the cost of building and maintaining the roads. This research suggests that the proposed road network will contribute to further deforestation, fragment key conservation areas in the Mayan forest while the costs of the roads are higher than its benefits.

*UPC , Unidos para la Conservación A.C , a Mexican NGO
*** Road Economic Decision Model, World Bank

Copyright © 2006, 2007 Dalia Amor, All Rights Reserved.

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