Trends in deforestation, agriculture and infrastructure in the Selva Maya: The case of Belize and its borders

Authors: Kasyan Green*, , John Rogan, Clark University Geography Department, Laura Sauls, Clark University George Perkins Marsh Institute, Nicholas Cuba, Clark University George Perkins Marsh Institute, Roberta Kamille Pennell, Wildlife Conservation Society
Topics: Latin America, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Protected Areas
Keywords: Belize, Protected Areas, Forest Loss, Agriculture, Wildfire
Session Type: Virtual Guided Poster
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 53
Presentation File: Download



The Selva Maya represents the largest expanse of tropical forest of Mesoamerica encompassing Belize, northern Guatemala and southeastern Mexico. Within the region, forestland is predominantly managed by communal tenure systems, and protected areas that interact with private investment and illicit activities. The increasing trends in forest loss in the Selva Maya over the past decade are attributed to agricultural expansion and associated wildfires, transportation infrastructure and logging. While these activities have been studied extensively in Guatemala and Mexico, comparatively little attention has been paid to the patterns and processes of forest loss in Belize. This study tracks twenty years of deforestation, agriculture and infrastructure in Belize in the context of protected areas, indigenous Mayan land rights, and transborder activity. Results show since 2000, Belize has lost 11% of its forest cover. The rate of deforestation is approximately 127 square kilometers per year and is increasing over time. Ongoing forest loss in the North has expanded into central and southern Belize which have seen an uptake in deforestation since 2010. Fires and agricultural expansion play a large role in the encroachment on forestland nationwide. For example, forest fires in 2011 contributed to 10.9% of deforestation since 2000. Forest loss in protected areas accounts for 14.3% of overall loss nationwide. These results indicate that deforestation in Belize plays a significant role in trends found across the broader Selva Maya region.

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