Bonilla-Moheno, M; Aide, TM (2020). Beyond deforestation: Land cover transitions in Mexico. AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS, 178, 102734.

Conversion of land cover is one of the main causes of global environmental change and identifying the regions where sustained trends of land change are occurring provides useful information for land and resources management. For all ecoregions in Mexico, we analyzed land use changes over 14 years (2001-2014) using MODIS images (250 m) and identified regions that had significant gains or loss of woody vegetation, pasturelands, or croplands. The land use patterns varied greatly among the 40 major ecoregions, but in general, woody vegetation and cropland cover increased while pastures decreased. In contrast to previous studies, much of the increase in croplands did not correspond with hotspots of decline in pastures but occurred in the Sonora and Chihuahuan deserts ecoregions in northern Mexico. Industrial cotton, sorghum, and pecans production for export where the major crops responsible for the increase in these ecoregions. Similar to patterns in the rest of Latin America, pasture expansion mainly occurred in ecoregions in the tropical moist forest biome (e.g. Veracruz and PetenVeracruz ecoregions). The ecoregions that experienced the greatest increase in woody vegetation were the Balsas dry forest ecoregion along the Pacific coast and Trans Mexican volcanic oak-pine ecoregion. In both regions, rural-urban migration appears to be an important driver of the transition from grasslands to woody vegetation, while the conversion of croplands to woody vegetation in the Tamaulipan mezquital ecoregion was clearly associated with drug related violence. This study documents how the complex interactions among national and international demand for agricultural products, national policies, demography, violence and climate change are affecting land change across Mexico.