Patterns of land system change in a Southeast Asian biodiversity hotspot

TitlePatterns of land system change in a Southeast Asian biodiversity hotspot
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsSchmid M, Heinimann A, Zaehringer JG
Secondary TitleApplied Geography
IssueJune 2020
PublisherElsevier Ltd
Key themesAgriculturalModernization, Conversion-FoodSecurity, Environment

Growing demand for agricultural commodities like rubber or oil palm is causing rapid change in Southeast Asia's biodiversity-rich forested landscapes. This change is particularly pronounced in Myanmar, whose economy is developing at great speed after the end of decades-long economic and political isolation and armed conflicts. Interventions are needed to ensure that development is sustainable. Designing successful interventions requires spatially explicit knowledge of recent landscape changes. To provide such knowledge, we applied a landscape mosaic approach and analysed land system change in Tanintharyi Region in southern Myanmar between 2002 and 2016. Our findings show that nearly half of the study region experienced degradation of the vegetation cover, intensification of agricultural use, or a combination of both. Although intact forest was still the prevailing vegetation cover of land systems in Tanintharyi Region in 2016, it had suffered from degradation in wide parts of the region. Land systems without or with only extensive agricultural use in 2002 had become dominated by smallholders' shifting cultivation systems and permanent betel nut gardens and paddy rice fields by 2016. Elsewhere, smallholder dominated land systems were intensified through the expansion of oil palm and rubber plantations, pointing to potential displacement effects. The land system maps offer a sound basis for planning interventions to slow the degradation of biodiversity-rich forests and support smallholder farmers in coping with the fast-paced expansion of commercial cash crop plantations and its social and environmental impacts. Sustainable development in this global biodiversity hotspot requires careful land use planning to support nature and people, along with continued efforts for peace-building.


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Journal Article