Deforestation in the southern Yucatán peninsular region: An integrative approach

B. L. Turner, Sergio Cortina Villar, David Foster, Jacqueline Geoghegan, Eric Keys, Peter Klepeis, Deborah Lawrence, Pedro Macario Mendoza, Steven Manson, Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Audrey B. Plotkin, Diego Pérez Salicrup, Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Basil Savitsky, Laura Schneider, Birgit Schmook, Colin Vance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations


The tensions between development and preservation of tropical forests heighten the need for integrated assessments of deforestation processes and for models that address the fine-tuned location of change. As Mexico's last tropical forest frontier, the southern Yucatán peninsular region witnesses these tensions, giving rise to a "hot spot" of tropical deforestation. These forests register the imprint of ancient Maya uses and selective logging in the recent past, but significant modern conversion of them for agriculture began in the 1960s. Subsequently, as much as 10% of the region's forests have been disturbed anthropogenically. The precise rates of conversion and length of successional growth in both upland and wetland forests are tied to policy and political economic conditions. Pressures on upland forests are exacerbated by the development of infrastructure for El Mundo Maya, an archaeological and ecological activity predicated on forest maintenance, and by increased subsistence and market cultivation, including lands on the edge of Mexico's largest tropical forest biosphere reserve. In this complex setting, the southern Yucatán peninsular region project seeks to unite research in the ecological, social, and remote sensing sciences to provide a firm understanding of the dynamics of deforestation and to work towards spatially explicit assessments and models that can be used to monitor and project forest change under different assumptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-370
Number of pages18
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The southern Yucatán peninsular region project is a collaboration of El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), Harvard Forest — Harvard University, the George Perkins Marsh Institute — Clark University, and Center for Integrated Studies on Global Change, Carnegie Mellon University (CIS-CMU). Core sponsorship is provided by NASA’s LCLUC (Land-cover and Land-use Change) program (NAG 56406) and the CIS-CMU (NSF-SBR 95-21914). Additional funds for various elements of the project are provided by Clark University, ECOSUR, Harvard Forest, the Conservation Research Foundation, NASA New Investigator Program in Earth Sciences, NASA Earth Systems Science Fellowships, NSF doctoral research awards (Geography and Regional Science, Decision, Risk and Management Sciences, INT-Americas divisions), InterAmerican Foundation Fellowship, and Fulbright Foundation Fellowship (Garcia Robles). For details, see We thank the reviewers for the comments.


  • Land change
  • Mexico
  • Modeling
  • Tropical deforestation
  • Yucatán

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