Bonilla-Moheno, M; Aide, TM; Clark, ML (2012). The influence of socioeconomic, environmental, and demographic factors on municipality-scale land-cover change in Mexico. REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE, 12(3), 543-557.
Land-cover change is the result of complex multi-scale interactions between socioeconomic, demographic, and environmental factors. Demographic change, in particular, is thought to be a major driver of forest change. Most studies have evaluated these interactions at the regional or the national level, but few studies have evaluated these dynamics across multiple spatial scales within a country. In this study, we evaluated the effect of demographic, environmental, and socioeconomic variables on land-cover change between 2001 and 2010 for all Mexican municipalities (n = 2,443) as well as by biome (n = 4). We used a land-cover classification based on 250-m MODIS data to examine the change in cover classes (i.e., woody, mixed woody, and agriculture/herbaceous vegetation). We evaluated the trends of land-cover change and identified the major factors correlated with woody vegetation change in Mexico. At the national scale, the variation in woody vegetation was best explained by environmental variables, particularly precipitation; municipalities where woody cover increased tended to be in areas with low average annual precipitation (i.e., desert and dry forest biomes). Demographic variables did not contribute much to the model at the national scale. Elevation, temperature, and population density explained the change in woody cover when municipalities were grouped by biome (i.e., moist forest, dry forest, coniferous forest, and deserts). Land-cover change at the biome level showed two main trends: (1) the tropical moist biome lost woody vegetation to agriculture and herbaceous vegetation, and (2) the desert biome increased in woody vegetation within more open-canopy shrublands.