Belize, formerly British Honduras, is known around the world for its Mayan ruins. But a new paper has put it in the spotlight for studying its losses in forests and wetlands over the past few years, thus giving some valuable observations in forest conservation.
A team of researchers used the NASA Landsat archive’s satellite images to quantify LULC (land-use and land-cover) in the Orange Walk District in Belize. Specific periods of 1984-1987, 1999-2001, and 2014-2016 were chosen for the purpose, based on changes in agricultural systems and conservation initiatives.
The period of 1984 to 1987 was marked by Milpa farming, which could be generalized as a type of rotational farming. This includes clearing some forest space for a new farm so the original could lie fallow. During this period, deforestation was limited.
An increase in forest areas was noted around 1999-2001, possibly owing to the establishment of several protected areas in late 1980s and early 1990s. However, losses to wetlands as well as conversion of non-protected land to agriculture were observed.
The third and the most recent period saw a 7.5% loss to forests and 28.2% loss to wetlands, outside of the protected areas. The 2000s were marked by a shift to industrial agriculture.
The study notes that an increase in population, which has an invariable impact on agriculture, was also a factor in this case. However, it did not have an impact on land use as large as agricultural practices did.
“These ecosystems provide many services such as aiding in the water cycle and preventing flooding,” said Colin Doyle, lead author of this study. “The conversion of forest to pastureland and industrial agriculture is also a major contributor to increasing greenhouse gas emissions across the tropics.”
Through these observations, the study shows that conservation efforts can do a significant amount to help conserve wetlands and forests. The protected areas in Belize primarily hold Maya civilization’s developments at the centre. Thus, not only are these efforts protecting human history, it is also promoting natural diversity.
The results of this study are published in Remote Sensing journal.
I am a simple writer who wishes to use her skill to create more awareness about the planet that offers us life.