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Effects of roads, topography, and land use on forest cover dynamics in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest

November 27, 2009

Roads and topography can determine patterns of land use and distribution of forest cover, particularly in tropical regions. We evaluated how road density, land use, and topography affected forest fragmentation, deforestation and forest regrowth in a Brazilian Atlantic Forest region near the city of São Paulo. We mapped roads and land use/land cover for three years (1962, 1981 and 2000) from historical aerial photographs, and summarized the distribution of roads, land use/land cover and topography within a grid of 94 non-overlapping 100 ha squares. We used generalized least squares regression models for data analysis. Our models showed that forest fragmentation and deforestation depended on topography, land use and road density, whereas forest regrowth depended primarily on land use. However, the relationships between these variables and forest dynamics changed in the two studied periods; land use and slope were the strongest predictors from 1962 to 1981, and past (1962) road density and land use were the strongest predictors for the following period (1981–2000). Roads had the strongest relationship with deforestation and forest fragmentation when the expansions of agriculture and buildings were limited to already deforested areas, and when there was a rapid expansion of development, under influence of São Paulo city. Furthermore, the past (1962) road network was more important than the recent road network (1981) when explaining forest dynamics between 1981 and 2000, suggesting a long-term effect of roads. Roads are permanent scars on the landscape and facilitate deforestation and forest fragmentation due to increased accessibility and land valorization, which control land-use and land-cover dynamics. Topography directly affected deforestation, agriculture and road expansion, mainly between 1962 and 1981. Forest are thus in peril where there are more roads, and long-term conservation strategies should consider ways to mitigate roads as permanent landscape features and drivers facilitators of deforestation and forest fragmentation.

Publication Year 2009
Title Effects of roads, topography, and land use on forest cover dynamics in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest
DOI 10.1016/j.foreco.2009.10.036
Authors Simone R. Freitas, Todd Hawbaker, Jean Paul Metzger
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Forest Ecology and Management
Index ID 70209541
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center