MEX-PD. Towards multifunctional landscapes in tropical deforestation frontiers

Most of the world’s remaining tropical forests are degraded forests located inside human-modified landscapes (HMLs). HMLs consist of a mosaic of land-uses and are dynamic, especially when recently colonized. Little is known about how HMLs evolve and under what conditions forests can persist and contribute to the maintenance of multiple landscape functions and services. This seriously hampers land-use planning, resulting in a rapid loss of natural habitat, biodiversity and landscape functions.

Aim: The objective of this study is to determine the social-ecological drivers of forest landscape change (changes in forest quantity, quality and spatial pattern) in human-modified landscapes and the consequences for landscape multifunctionality.

Methodology: I will study a humid tropical region in Chiapas, Mexico. This region (~1000 km2) was recently colonized by 38 agricultural settler communities and exhibits a high diversity of landscape configurations. Communities migrated from wide range of locations, and thereby represent a high diversity of sociocultural backgrounds and variation in local ecological knowledge. This, together with community characteristics (e.g. population density), biophysical characteristics and external influences, is expected to have shaped land-use decisions, landscape configurations and landscape functions. I will unravel the main social-ecological drivers of forest landscape changes, focusing on changes in forest quantity, forest quality and spatial pattern, and its consequences for landscape multifunctionality. I will combine participatory methods with a modelling approach to explore new landscape configurations in which negative trade-offs between important landscape functions are minimized.

Associated MSc theses: