Date of Award:

12-2018

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Ecology

Advisor/Chair:

R. Douglas Ramsey

Abstract

The Chocó-Darien Global Ecoregion (CGE) in South America is one of 25 global biodiversity hotspots prioritized for conservation. I performed the first land-use and land-cover (LULC) change analysis for the entire CGE in this dissertation. There were three main objectives: 1) Select the best available imagery to build annual land-use and land-cover maps from 2001 to 2015 across the CGE. 2) Model LULC across the CGE to assess forest change trends from 2002 to 2015 and identify the effect of proximate causes of deforestation and reforestation. 3) Estimate the effects of underlying drivers on deforestation and reforestation across the CGE between 2002 and 2015. I developed annual LULC maps across the CGE from 2002 to 2015 using MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro radiometer) vegetation index products and random forest classification. The LULC maps resulted in high accuracies (Kappa = 0.87; SD = 0.008). We detected a gradual replacement of forested areas with agriculture and secondary vegetation (agriculture reverting to early regeneration of natural vegetation) across the CGE. Forest loss was higher between 2010-2015 when compared to 2002-2010. LULC change trends, proximate causes, and reforestation transitions varied according to administrative authority (countries: PanamanianCGE, Colombian CGE, and Ecuadorian CGE). Population growth and road density were underlying drivers of deforestation. Armed conflicts, Gross Domestic Product, and average annual rain were proximate causes and underlying drivers related reforestation.

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