GISSIG Lecture “Space vs. Place: Population and Deforestation in Guatemala”

David L. Carr, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara

Thursday, April 24, 3pm
Yang and Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building
(Woods Institute for the Environment)
Room 101

In explaining variability in tropical deforestation, land change scientists have focused almost exclusively on in situ (or “on-farm”) resource use, while population scholars have largely ignored rural-to-rural migration. The ways in which household responses to the human and physical environment in one place may affect land cover change in another place have been inadequately explored. This lecture investigates the primary proximate and underlying causes of deforestation in the humid tropics with a case study from Guatemala. To investigate the first cause of this phenomenon, farmer land use, I collected data from over 500 farmers in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR). To address the second cause of deforestation in the MBR, migration, I conducted interviews with community leaders in twenty-eight communities of MBR settler origin. Evidence suggests that space and place remain essential heuristics to understanding the deforestation process in the tropics. Results from the MBR revealed several factors positively related to forest clearing at the farm level including family size, secure land title, duration on the farm, agricultural intensification, ethnicity, and farm size. Results from areas of origin of migrants to the MBR suggest that larger families, Q’eqchí Maya, landless households, families with small or environmentally degraded plots, households with poor access to labor and produce markets, the least educated, and the exceptionally poor run the greatest risk for migration to the frontier. Evidently, attention to both migration origin and destination areas enhances options for policy interventions aimed at sustainable rural development and forest conservation.

David Carr, Assoc. Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara, has served as PI on grants from NASA, NIH, and NSF, enjoyed collaborations with the IHDP, USAID, WWF, TNC, CI, and the IPCC, and has authored over fifty publications on land use/cover change, protected areas, migration, fertility, and health in the tropics.

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