Southern Yucatán Peninsular Region (SYPR) Project

The Southern Yucatán Peninsular Region (SYPR) project was designed from the outset as a fully integrated, land change science effort, devoted to understanding deforestation and land-use change in the Southern Yucatán (SY) in the full dimensions of the coupled human-environment or social-ecological system as subsequently articulated in the GLP Science Plan. On-going since 1997, the project has involved partnerships among Clark University, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur [Chetumal y Campeche units], Harvard University, Rutgers University, and the University of Virginia … (Project Overview 1/2).

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Project Overview 2/2: The SY, that portion of southwestern Quintana Roo and southeastern Campeche, Mexico residing above 150 m elevation, occupies the uplands or meseta rising above the Caribbean and Gulf coastal plains of the Yucatán Peninsula. 

The region maintains a critical ecocline of seasonal tropical forests connecting the xeric forests of northern Yucatán and the humid forests of Petén, Guatemala.  The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is situated in the center of the SY, and its southern border meets the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Petén, marking the largest expanse of protected tropical forests in Mexico and Central America, a critical element of the MesoAmerican Biological Corridor.

The SYPR operates on the assumption that by understanding land change in its own right powerful insights are gained about the processes and dynamics specific to the human or environmental subsystems and their interactions.  The range of expertise brought to bear in the design and implementation of the project includes over 40 sponsored researchers in the ecological, social (especially geography and economics), and GIS (including remote sensing) sciences.

The project began in 1997 with the aim of documenting, explaining, and modeling land changes and some of their ecological consequences.  Landsat and Landsat ETM and aerial photography were used to develop a rich suite of land cover classes and document their changes from 1987 to 1997.  The land classes included four types of tree cover, agricultural lands, three stages of successional growth, and savanna-tular (marsh).  The rates of deforestation of older growth forests were shown to be large, even within the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve.  These changes were associated with large-scale agricultural projects and a substantial increase in the rural population, rising to more than 37,000 people by 2000 (from 2,500 in 1960) and stimulated by the establishment of ejidos (communally owned lands) throughout the SY for emigrant populations from elsewhere in Mexico.  This period of land change activity was marked by the expansion of the invasive bracken fern, its persistence amplifying the need for more deforestation … (full long text)

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