Remote Sensing of Deforestation in the Mosquita Region of Honduras  

Abstract Category: Science
Course / Degree: Master of Arts in Environmental Geography
Institution / University: San Diego State University, San Diego, California, United States
Published in: 2001

Thesis Abstract / Summary:

This study is set between 1987 and 1994 in the vicinity of a colonization front in the Mosquitia Region of Honduras. Consisting primarily of ladino peasants, the front has advanced into an indigenously populated, relatively pristine rainforest region. Population (1950-1988) and agricultural (1961 and 1976) census data charted steady growth for towns along the edge of the forest. The census provided state-level but not town-level analysis within the rainforest. When compared to the region east of the 1990 colonization front, where indigenous Miskito, Pech, and Tawahkan Sumu peoples were in the majority; the ladino area west of the colonization front was becoming densely populated and intensely used during the study period. Concern about potential losses to biodiversity and indigenous culture sparked research in the region and led to this study.

Efforts have been on-going to protect both the Honduran Mosquitia, and the greater Mosquitia rainforest corridor, where the largest contiguous tropical, lowland rainforest in Central America remains. Addressing a gap in these efforts, this research examined the use of remote sensing to reliably detect and quantify baseline deforestation and forest change. This study also provides a qualitative comparative analysis of ladino and indigenous land use and identifies deforestation rates, spatial patterns, and cultural and physical factors influencing deforestation.

Research data were gathered from two near anniversary satellite images, ground reference information sources, two field reconnaissances, and a review of literature dating back to 1870. Using Landsat-5 thematic mapper imagery, remote sensing techniques were developed and applied over a 1,873-square-kilometer primary study area. A semi-automated, unsupervised classification process was performed individually on the 1987 and 1994 images which were enhanced by the tasseled cap transformation. Clouds and a 5-pixel buffer area were removed from the quantitative results to reduce bias. Reliability of classification results were assessed using ground data and a comparative visual-based classification process. Apparent deforestation (deforestation minus afforestation) was a positive net of 16.17 square kilometers. Deforestation was consistently higher than afforestation, by 30%, on both sides of the colonization front. West of the front, apparent deforestation was 6.44 out of 239 square kilometers, and 9.73 out of 1,133 square kilometers to the east. Deforestation in the Mosquitia has resulted in substantial encroachment into protected areas; notably the Olancho National Forest, the Tawahka Biosphere Reserve, and the entire buffer zone of the Patuca National Park.

Based on the findings of this study, it is recommended that cattle be restricted and/or reduced within the Mosquitia's rainforest and that culture specific education programs be developed to reduce over-exploitation of native flora and fauna in order to retain regional biological and cultural diversity. Finally, this study contributes a database for future monitoring, conservation, and research efforts.

Thesis Keywords/Search Tags:
Deforestation, Remote Sensing, La Mosquitia, Honduras, Landsat, satellite, Central America, colonization, rainforest, biodiversity, Miskito, Pech, Twahkan Sumu, Ladino, Indigenous, cultural diversity

This Thesis Abstract may be cited as follows:
Smit, Holly A. 2001. Remote Sensing of Deforestation in the the Mosquitia Region of Honduras. Masters Thesis, Geography Department, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA

Submission Details: Thesis Abstract submitted by Holly Anne Smit (Kicklighter) from United States on 15-Jan-2006 00:55.
Abstract has been viewed 2166 times (since 7 Mar 2010).

Holly Anne Smit (Kicklighter) Contact Details: Email: hsmit@sandiego.gov

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