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LC-01 Abstract

Agricultural Colonization on the Ecuadorian Amazon: Population, Biophysical, and Geographical Factors Affecting Land Use/Land Cover Change and Landscape Structure

Richard E. Bilsborrow — University of North Carolina (US-PI)
Stephen J. Walsh — University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (US-PI)


We propose studies in two theme areas of LBA Ecology: land

use and land cover change (LULCC), and Carbon Storage and Exchange. This will

involve examining the human and biophysical dimensions of land use and land

cover (LULC) in the Ecuadorian Amazon associated with high rates of spontaneous

colonization by agricultural settlers migrating into the region since the early

1970ís. A satellite time series from 1973 to 1999, along with GIS thematic

coverage of biophysical gradients and geographical accessibility, was linked to

data collected on the ground from a probability sample of geo-referenced farm

household plots and communities. Data were collected on the latter in 1999 for

the same settler plots originally surveyed in 1990 to measure LULC over time in

detail, and to study the relationships between LULC and population and

socioeconomic characteristics of settler households. Image processing to

characterize LULC and spatial analyses of landscape structure was used to assess

the rate and nature of LULC and to model the effects of LULC, secondary plant

succession, and land fragmentation on carbon budgets and assimilation rates for

landscape strata and the study area as a whole. Statistical models were used to

estimate the demographic, socioeconomic, biophysical, and geographic

determinants of LULC. Agricultural extensification and intensification have both

been observed and documented at the three spatial scales of the farm plot, the

sector or community of the plots, and the region as a whole.

The project was carried out in an area of the Amazon

headwaters, one characterized by extraordinary biodiversity, undergoing more

rapid colonization and deforestation than elsewhere in the Western Amazon due to

its being opened up by roads following the discovery of large oil deposits. A

scientifically representative sample of 420 settler household plots covered in

1990 was re-visited in 1999 to provide a unique assessment of changes in LULC

over time, including land extensification, land intensification (and

sustainability of agricultural technology), land abandonment, and secondary

succession, with implications for the carbon budget.
"Times New Roman";mso-ansi-language:EN-US;mso-fareast-language:EN-US;

mso-bidi-language:AR-SA">Lessons learned about the process of LULC will

contribute to policies to promote more sustainable methods of land use and

therefore forest preservation

Research Team Responsibilities

  • Richard Bilsborrow: LULC, survey design and data

    collection, statistical modeling, policy implications

  • Stephen Walsh: LULC and carbon measurements, GIS

    imagery, change metric

  • Francis Baquero and Carlos Mena: GPS measures for LULC,

    GIS imagery

  • Laura Murphy: LULC, data collection design and

    cleaning, statistical estimation

  • Stephen McGregor and Brian Frizzelle: GPS data

    collection for LULC, GIS imagery

Project Site

The central part of the three northern Ecuadorian Amazon

provinces of Sucumbios, Orellana and Napo, which is also the principal area of

oil discovery, road-building, and colonization by in-migrants.


  • GIS: Acquire remote sensing images, historical and

    current base maps and maps of roads and towns and infrastructure (to the

    extent possible, such as for schools, health clinics, oil camps, sawmills,

    coffee roasters, etc.), hydrography, topography, aerial photography

    (available only for 1990). Order GPS units and load software onto

    laptops for data collection and differential correction. Preprocess

    satellite data and digitize maps into ARC/INFO format. Train Ecociencia

    (Ecuador) staff in use of GPS devices and GIS. 1998-99

  • Household and Community Surveys. Prepare household- and

    community-level questionnaires. Recruit and train interviewers in Ecuador.

    Conduct pretests of questionnaires and of GPS devices and calibrate measures

    of land use with satellite imagery. Procure supplies for fieldworkers.

    Conduct household survey††††

    comprising interviews of heads of households and spouses

    (February-September, 1999). Clean and process survey data.

    Conduct community survey, of 60 communities, June, 2000. Clean and

    process community data.

  • LULC classification validation using both ground/survey

    and satellite data. 2000

  • Carbon storage and sequestration. Estimate biomass and

    leaf area. Assess pattern metrics and landscape structure associated with

    fragmentation. Estimate carbon dynamics associated with LULC. 2000-2001.

  • Assess extent of extensification and intensification of

    agricultural land use on plots, and determinants thereof. Conduct

    multivariate and multi-level analyses of LULC, derive policy implications;

    prepare papers for presentation at conferences,

    journal submission and a book in both English and Spanish, 2000-2001.

  • Transfer data and technology to Ecuador/Ecociencia and

    other LBA investigators. 2000-2001.Note

    two Ecuadorian interviewers already used the household survey data as the

    basis for their theses for college degrees in Ecuador.

    And both satellite images and survey data have been supplied to the

    Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment to assist it in monitoring illegal

    deforestation in the Amazon.

  • Organize and carry out extensive dissemination

    activities in Ecuador, for migrant colonist farmers and leaders, in the

    Ecuadorian Amazon (in Lago Agrio and Coca) and in Quito, for government and

    NGO officials and academics.2002

updated August 12, 2001

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