DEFORESTATION ALONG THE MAYA MOUNTAIN MASSIF BELIZE-GUATEMALA BORDER
Keywords: Deforestation, Transboundry, Maya Mountain Massif, Protected Areas, Biodiversity, Belize
Abstract. In recent years trans-boundary incursions from Petén, Guatemala into Belize’s Maya Mountain Massif (MMM) have increased. The incursions are rapidly degrading cultural and natural resources in Belize’s protected areas. Given the local, regional and global importance of the MMM and the scarcity of deforestation data, our research team conducted a time series analysis 81 km by 12 km along the Belize-Guatemalan border adjacent to the protected areas of the MMM. Analysis drew on Landsat imagery from 1991 to 2014 to determine historic deforestation rates. The results indicate that the highest deforestation rates in the study area were −1.04% and −6.78% loss of forested area per year in 2012-2014 and 1995-1999 respectively. From 1991 to 2014, forested area decreased from 96.9 % to 85.72 % in Belize and 83.15 % to 31.52 % in Guatemala. During the study period, it was clear that deforestation rates fluctuated in Belize's MMM from one time-period to the next. This seems linked to either a decline in deforestation rates in Guatemala, the vertical expansion of deforestation in Guatemalan forested areas and monitoring. The results of this study urge action to reduce incursions and secure protected areas and remaining forest along the Belize-Guatemalan border.