Deforestation of montane cloud forest in the Central Highlands of Guatemala: contributing factors and implications for sustainability in Q’eqchi’ communities | Land Portal

Resource information

Date of publication: 
December 2015
Resource Language: 
ISBN / Resource ID: 

Cloud forest in the Central Highlands of Guatemala provides important ecosystem services for the Q’eqchi’ Maya but has been disappearing at an increasing rate in recent decades. This research documents changes in cloud forest cover, explores some contributing factors to deforestation, and considers forest preservation and food security implications for Q’eqchi’ communities. We used a transdisciplinary framework that synthesized remote sensing/GIS analysis of land cover change, focus group dialogs, and surveys. Expansion of subsistence agriculture is a key proximate cause of cloud forest removal, followed by extraction of fuelwood and larger-scale logging operations. Predisposing environmental factors such as rugged topography, steep slopes, and poor soils contribute to low agricultural productivity that contributes to increased conversion of forest to agricultural land. The key underlying driving forces for deforestation locally are population growth and subdivision of land. Population growth is increasing the demand for agricultural land and, as a result, the Q’eqchi’ clear the forest to meet the need for increased food production. Furthermore, population growth is driving subdivision of land, decreasing fallow periods, and putting additional strain on poor soils, all of which exacerbate land degradation. Given the increase in population in the region, food production must be improved on existing agricultural land to avoid the need to put more land into production to meet food requirements. Thus, efforts to sustainably increase agricultural productivity are fundamental to efforts to conserve the cloud forest and to safeguard essential ecosystem services.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Pope, I.
Bowen, D.
Harbor, J.
Shao, G.
Zanotti, L.
Burniske, G.


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