What drives land use - land cover change leading to deforestation?: A study case of the Tambopata Natural Reserve Buffer Zone, Madre de Dios, Peru

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The current study examined the particular land use land cover change process that occurred in one segment of the Tambopata Natural Reserve Buffer Zone, in the Southeastern Peruvian Amazon region of Madre de Dios, during the period 2004-2011. During such period of time, the study area experimented significant land use transitions, mostly from tropical forest and farming areas towards illegal gold mining activities. Theory explained that such processes occur due to a particular combination of direct and underlying drivers. Therefore, the research objectives of the study, focused to undercover both drivers and their intricate interaction and dynamics that shaped the particular transitions in the study site. Theory also indicated that an integral land use cover change analysis is required to properly formulate sound and adequate measures and policies in order to effectively tackle further land use change leading to deforestation. The long term impact of such measures are transcendental in terms of climate change by avoiding considerable carbon emissions to the atmosphere. The chosen methodology was an integration of qualitative and quantitative approaches, which required primary and secondary data correspondingly. The collection of secondary data included land use change maps for each year of analysis and its corresponding land use change matrix, whereas the collection of primary data required extensive semi-structure interviews in the field. Additionally, the qualitative approach required in the inclusion of grey literature. The analysis of each set of data was initially conducted separately, which resulted in two different but complementary interpretations of the particular land use change in the study site. Both results were later integrated and examined altogether, which resulted into a complete and detailed analysis of the particular event in the study area. The final integration exposed the direct and underlying drivers of change. The integral results exposed a dynamic area that experimented rapid forest loss towards mostly illegal gold mining activities, together with a non-compensatory natural regeneration. In addition, important economic activities identified as forestry and farming concessions, experimented similar transitions. Integral results exposed the direct drivers of change, such as the development of illegal gold mining, the pavement of the Inter Oceanic Highway and new informal agricultural expansion. Similarly, the underlying causes of change were also identified as an intricate and complex combination of pre-established variables such as cultural, economic, demographic, social, political and institutional ones. It was acknowledged that a complex interaction of direct and hidden drivers created the particular deforestation process in the site. However, it was identified that new extraordinary variables remarkably accelerated the transition process towards illegal mining. Such variables were the astonishing international gold price, together with the Inter Oceanic Highway pavement and the relatively new but inefficient decentralization of the national forestry system. Such combination resulted into the remarkable land use conversion towards illegal mining, which caused rapid and pervasive deforestation. Finally, the government proved incompetent to deal with such event and its corresponding development by implementing actions that lacked a complete analysis of the direct and underlying causes, including the social and economic particularities of the area. This resulted into insufficient achievements and inefficient solutions.

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