Land tenure and forest cover change. The case of southwestern Beni, Bolivian Amazon, 1986-2009

Jaime Paneque-Gálvez, Jean François Mas, Maximilien Guèze, Ana Catarina Luz, Manuel J. Macía, Martí Orta-Martínez, Joan Pino, Victoria Reyes-García

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35 Citations (Scopus)


As land use change continues to increase throughout the Amazon basin, there is a pressing need to accurately map, quantify and assess the effects of different factors on forest cover change (FCC). Land tenure may sometimes have important effects on forest cover, yet such effects remain poorly understood in Amazonia, particularly outside Brazil. In this paper we assess whether significant differences in trends of FCC can be partially explained by different land tenure arrangements, using a case study in southwestern Beni (Bolivian Amazon). We examine spatio-temporal dynamics of FCC across four land tenure systems (indigenous titled territory, protected area, logging concession, and private land) by classifying forests using a time-series of Landsat satellite imagery consisting of four dates (1986, 1996, 2001, 2009). Specifically, we unravel (1) trends in early growth and old-growth forest extent, including changes in total cover area, annual change rates, and spatial change dynamics, and (2) trends in old-growth forest fragmentation. To better understand the association between land tenure and FCC, we qualitatively assess the potential role that other underlying and proximate drivers may have had in FCC over the study period. We found that private lands underwent, by far, the largest FCC, that indigenous territories and the protected area had little FCC, and that logging concessions were responsible for the lowest FCC. Our findings suggest that land tenure played a key role in FCC except in private areas, where many other drivers had operated. Our study sheds light into the potential role of land tenure in FCC and has important implications for public policies aimed at socioeconomic development and environmental conservation in the Amazon. We give some policy recommendations drawn from a biocultural conservation perspective that could contribute to implement more inclusive conservation policies in the region. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-126
JournalApplied Geography
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2013


  • Biocultural conservation
  • Bolivian lowlands
  • Indigenous territories
  • Logging concessions
  • Private lands
  • Protected areas
  • Tropical deforestation and forest degradation
  • Tropical forest fragmentation


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