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Land use/land cover change dynamics and drivers in a low-grade marginal coffee growing region of Veracruz, Mexico


In the state of Veracruz, Mexico, lowland and marginal coffee growing regions have been particularly vulnerable since the 1989 coffee crisis. Government programs have promoted production diversification as a strategy to improve local incomes and conserve environmentally beneficial shade-tree coffee agroforests. We present results on land use/land cover dynamics in the municipality of Zozocolco de Hidalgo from 1973 to 2006. The municipality is recognized for its indigenous population and poverty, and currently, diversification efforts are being implemented. Our study combines remote sensing and GIS analyses, binary logistic regression and econometric modeling, as well as socioeconomic surveys to evaluate land use/land cover change (LULCC) dynamics and explore potential environmental and socioeconomic drivers. Results show that tree cover and coffee agroforests had largely been conserved during the first decade after the coffee crisis. But, recent trends indicate loss of tree cover in coffee agroforests and their conversion mostly to pasture. Land use/land cover drivers are largely explained by spatially explicit environmental variables such as slope and elevation. Relevant socioeconomic variables such as distance to markets and land use profitability were not significantly related to land use changes in Zozocolco. Surveys revealed that many households had converted coffee agroforests to pasture or agriculture in the past decade and others intended on renting or selling their agroforest plots, mostly for conversion to pasture. Diversification programs may not be sufficient to stem deforestation in lowland and marginal coffee growing regions. Moreover, information about locally varying socioeconomic and cultural contexts needs to be strongly considered in order to formulate effective strategies.

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