Crocodile Habitat Conservation in Belize: Assessing Forty Years of Change in Placencia Using GIS and Remote Sensing

Authors: Jordan Cissell*, University of Alabama, Michael K Steinberg, University of Alabama
Topics: Remote Sensing, Environment, Coastal and Marine
Keywords: crocodiles, Belize, remote sensing, GIS, habitat conservation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Grand Chenier, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Habitat destruction represents one of the most immediate threats to Morelet’s (Crocodylus moreletii) and American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) populations in Belize. Since the 1980s, Placencia, Stann Creek District, Belize, has experienced explosive aquaculture- and tourism-related growth, driving crocodile habitat destruction that has exerted negative pressures on crocodile populations, increased instances of human-crocodile conflict, and driven inter-species breeding between Morelet’s and American crocodiles. However, no published work has quantified the extent or distribution of anthropogenic development and resulting crocodile habitat degradation in Placencia during that time. This project addresses this knowledge gap, integrating supervised classification of high-resolution (2.9-meter) satellite imagery and visual interpretation of aerial photography in a geographic information system (GIS) to identify important contemporary crocodile habitat and to map and quantify historical anthropogenic development and habitat destruction in Placencia between 1980 and 2017. Documenting these previously unexamined change dynamics will help local conservation organizations prioritize conservation efforts in areas that demonstrate high rates of past destruction and high risk of future destruction. Additionally, this study provides previously unavailable baseline information against which to measure future changes in a developing location that is gaining attention from international media as a popular tourism destination, and it establishes a workflow with which other researchers can use remotely sensed data to measure and monitor habitat changes in Belize and around the world.

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