Etter, A, McAlpine, C, Wilson, K, Phinn, S, Possingham, H (2006). Regional patterns of agricultural land use and deforestation in Colombia. AGRICULTURE ECOSYSTEMS & ENVIRONMENT, 114(4-Feb), 369-386.

An expanding human population and associated demands for goods and services continues to exert an increasing pressure on ecological systems. Although the rate of expansion of agricultural lands has slowed since 1960, rapid deforestation still occurs in many tropical countries, including Colombia. However, the location and extent of deforestation and associated ecological impacts within tropical countries is often not well known. The primary aim of this study was to obtain an understanding of the spatial patterns of forest conversion for agricultural land uses in Colombia. We modeled native forest conversion in Colombia at regional and national-levels using logistic regression and classification trees. We investigated the impact of ignoring the regional variability of model parameters, and identified biophysical and socioeconomic factors that best explain the current spatial pattern and inter-regional variation in forest cover. We validated our predictions for the Amazon region using MODIS satellite imagery. The regional-level classification tree that accounted for regional heterogeneity had the greatest discrimination ability. Factors related to accessibility (distance to roads and towns) were related to the presence of forest cover, although this relationship varied regionally. In order to identify areas with a high risk of deforestation, we used predictions from the best model, refined by areas with rural population growth rates of > 2%. We ranked forest ecosystem types in terms of levels of threat of conversion. Our results provide useful inputs to planning for biodiversity conservation in Colombia, by identifying areas and ecosystem types that are vulnerable to deforestation. Several of the predicted deforestation hotspots coincide with areas that are outstanding in terms of biodiversity value. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.