Tropical forests are increasingly subject to large-scale forest fires, which have become one of the greatest anthropogenic disturbances of these ecosystems. This study examines the relationship between forest fires and deforestation through an analysis of the impact of fires upon land-use decision-making at the household level and the impacts and patterns of these processes at the landscape level. Patterns of forest fires and deforestation in Laguna del Tigre National Park, in Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve, were analyzed from 1997 to 2005, using remote sensing and logistic regression analysis. During this period, two major fires affected the region-one in 1998 and the other in 2003. Complementarily, in-depth interviews and field observations were conducted in one community to evaluate land-use decisions following a fire disturbance. Results indicate that only 9% of the burned forest was cleared for other land uses after the 1998 fire, but more than half of the burned forest was converted to agriculture following the 2003 fire. Our research reveals that a complex and variable process of land-use decisions takes place locally and is influenced not only by the presence of forest fires but more so by other variables like accessibility, topography, soils depth and presence of valuable timber and non-timber species. These findings also indicate the importance of adopting a multi-scale approach and the integration of remote sensing and social surveys to improve the understanding of landscape changes following disturbances.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Environmental Science(all)
- Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management