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Investigations of land use/land cover (LULC) change and forest management are limited by a lack of understanding of how socioeconomic factors affect land use. This lack also constrains the predictions of future deforestation, which is especially important in the Amazon basin, where large tracts of natural forest are being converted to managed uses. Research presented in this article was conducted to address this lack of understanding. Its objectives are (a) to quantify deforestation in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon (NEA) during the periods 1986-1996 and 1996-2002; and (b) to determine the significance and magnitude of the effects of socioeconomic factors on deforestation rates at both the parroquia (parish) and finca (farm) levels. Annual deforestation rates were quantified via satellite image processing and geographic information systems. Linear spatial lag regression analyses were then used to explore relationships between socioeconomic factors and deforestation. Socioeconomic factors were obtained, at the finca level, from a detailed household survey carried out in 1990 and 1999, and at the parroquia level from data in the 1990 and 2001 Ecuadorian censuses of population. We found that the average annual deforestation rate was 2.5% and 1.8%/year for 1986-1996 and 1996-2002, respectively. At the parroquia level, variables representing demographic factors (i.e., population density) and accessibility factors (i.e., road density), among others, were found to be significantly related to deforestation. At the farm level, the factors related to deforestation were household size, distance by road to main cities, education, and hired labor. The findings of this research demonstrate both the severity of deforestation in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon and the array of factors affecting deforestation in the tropics.

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