Deforestation patterns within a UNESCO biosphere reserve in post-dictatorship Paraguay

Authors: William Havrilchak*, Kutztown University, Mario L Cardozo, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Human-Environment Geography, Remote Sensing
Keywords: Paraguay, deforestation, soy, conservation, GIS
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


During the 1954-1989 dictatorship in Paraguay, the elite linked to President Stroessner’s corrupt government took over large expanses of rural lands. Since 1989, some of these lands were recovered for the establishment of smallholder communities, while others were further developed for the expansion of cattle pastures, and more recently, soy cropping. With the inexorable advance of the soy frontier in the 2000s, conservation initiatives proposed stricter environmental policies to counter deforestation. Such efforts materialized in a deforestation moratorium enacted in 2004, forbidding forest clearing for soy-field establishment. Our study focuses on deforestation within the Mbaracayú Forest Biosphere Reserve, established in 2000 in Eastern Paraguay to conserve patches of Atlantic Forest linked to the Mbaracayú Forest Nature Reserve, established in 1991. Using classified Landsat imagery, we mapped forest cover changes to illustrate how the above mentioned events were internalized in the study area. We examine deforestation based on forest extent and fragmentation metrics in 1995, 2000, 2004, 2009, and 2014. From 1995 to 2004, deforestation in the biosphere reserve seems to reflect overall national patterns linked to both cattle ranching expansion and smallholder reclaiming of large holdings. Despite reports that the 2004 moratorium curbed deforestation nationally, the study area shows increasing deforestation rates and forest fragmentation from 2004 to 2014. We relate these patterns to road development and soy expansion, thus bringing attention to the need of engaging agents involved with soy cropping in discussions of sustainable development within this UNESCO biosphere reserve.

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