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Tropical deforestation has become increasingly prevalent throughout the world, at an almost exponential rate over the past decades. While the deforested areas come about as a result of many different reasons, it remains an issue that is largely negative in an ecologic sense, yet necessary in an economic sense. In particular, the country of Honduras loses roughly 2% of forest coverage each year. Due to a rampant level of poverty, there are many people in the country who turn to illegal forestry to gain much needed income. However, along with the degradation of the ecosystem, there is a large disruption of all parts of the ecosystem with deforestation. Those living in the area may suffer from the loss of plants and clean water supplies. These changes would inevitably impact the cultural environment of those people living in the areas in which deforestation occurs. 

 
The aim of this project is to integrate the ecological aspects of deforestation and the cultural impacts through GIS and determine if deforestation impacts the cultural environment of a community. By comparing historic images and recent imaging, the should be a clear difference between the previous extent of forests and where communities of people resided, and the current extent of forest coverage and communities.

 

To gain a better understanding of the changing land cover due to deforestation, several different types of satellite images were downloaded and analyzed. This included one year MODIS land cover classification images and one month MODIS vegetation index (NDVI) images. I also acquired one month leaf area index images to aid in the analysis.

 
This is the land cover classification from 2001.

Shown above is the land cover image from 2003. Both above images were taken in the same month, so it is apparent the coverage changes occurring in the country just over two years. The images were imported from Google Earth and georeferenced to a base map with coordinate system WGS 1984. It is logical to see that most of the changes in land coverage are concentrated around populated areas, denoted by the red markers.

Leaf Area Index, 2000

Leaf Area Index 2012
 
Again, these two images show the different in coverage within Honduras. Both were taken in the month of March, so conditions were the same for both images. Within the span of twelve years, it is easy to see the regression of the very dark areas on the images, which denote forest coverage. As with the first set of images, many of these changes are occurring around populated areas of the country, such as the capital, Tegucigulpa in the southern portion of the country.
 
It is feasible to say that growing populations, and changing demand for land area have shaped the ways in which deforestation is occurring within countries such as Honduras. Forestry provides solid income for those that are able to do it, and there is a greater focus on growing the economy of the country, and less on preserve the natural resources. Such analysis like this have a great potential to show the differences in land use and coverage within countries, and give a good representation of what the needs of the people are in different areas. However, with such rapid decline of global forest coverage, this type of project could potentially be incredibly helpful at understanding loss and establishing areas that need resource management implementation.
 
References:

http://neo.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/Search.html

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/GlobalMaps/view.php?d1=MOD13A2_M_NDVI

http://www.gis.usu.edu/~doug/RS5750/PastProj/FA1995/gis26/gis26.html

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/260/5116/1905.short
 

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