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Landscape Ecology and Institutions of Conservation in the Southern Yucatán Peninsular Region

Rinku Roy Chowdhury

This study examines the evolution of landscape-scale forest patterns in the southern Yucatán peninsular region (SYPR), Mexico, as they are determined by social institutions controlling forest conservation. The primary research questions ask whether diverse conservation institutions give rise to different landscape-level patterns, and whether these patterns have distinct ecosystem and community-level consequences.

The research will compute indices of landscape pattern, such as forest fragmentation and connectivity, from a remote-sensing derived land-use/cover classification, including three structural/seral stages of secondary succession and two mature forest categories. Through semi-structured interviews and archival research, the critical conservation institutions in the region will be identified, their areas of influence mapped onto the classified land-use/cover, and analyzed for statistical relationship to degree of forest fragmentation currently and in the recent past (15 years). By investigating institutional conservation strategies and implementation plans, the researcher will elicit information on the subsidization of smallholder agricultural activities that maintain forest cover, and on explicit mechanisms controlling the area, spatial pattern, and timing of deforestation. The landscape-institution study will then be grounded, through field ecological research, in point assessments of local successional forests. Field studies will stratify successional forest patches by fragmentation index and institutional regime, and collect detailed data on ecosystem function attributes (carbon and nitrogen stocks, soil moisture and relative biomass) and community composition (species, structural and seral stage diversity).

By combining remote sensing, landscape and community ecological methods with qualitative and empirical social research, the proposed study attempts an interdisciplinary analysis of institutional regimes in the SYPR as they alter landscape patterns, nutrient stocks in ecosystems, species diversity, and local sustainability. Key research and policy contributions of the proposed study pertain to the fields of geography and land-use/cover change, landscape ecology, carbon cycles and terrestrial ecology, conservation biology, and ecosystem management.


Copyright 2000 Graduate School of Geography, Clark University