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Household Land Management and Biodiversity: Secondary Succession in a Forest-Agriculture Mosaic in Southern Mexico

Rinku Roy Chowdhury, University of Miami


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This study evaluates anthropogenic and ecological dimensions of secondary forest succession in Mexico’s southern Yucatán peninsular region, a hotspot of biodiversity and tropical deforestation. Secondary succession in particular constitutes an ecologically and economically important process, driven by and strongly influencing land management and local ecosystem structure and dynamics. As agents of local land management, smallholding farmers in communal, i.e., ejido lands affect rates of forest change, biodiversity, and sustainability within and beyond their land parcels. This research uses household surveys and land parcel mapping in two ejidos located along the buffer of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve to analyze how household socioeconomics and policy institutions drive allocations to successional forests in traditional crop fallows and in enriched fallows. Results indicate that household tenancy, livestock holdings, labor-consumer ratios, and receipts of agricultural subsidies are the strongest determinants of traditional fallow areas. Whereas the latter two factors also influence enriched successions, local agroforestry and reforestation programs were the strongest drivers of fallow enrichment. Additionally, the study conducts field vegetation sampling in a nested design within traditional and enriched fallow sites to comparatively assess biodiversity consequences of fallow management. Although enriched fallows display greater species richness in 10x10 m plots and 2x2 m quadrats, plot-scale data reveal no significant differences in Shannon-Wiener or Simpson’s diversity indices. Traditional fallows display greater species heterogeneity at the quadrat scale, however, indicating a complex relationship of diversity to fallow management over time. The article discusses the implications of the social and ecological analyses for land change research and conservation policies.

Key words

biodiversity; household decision making; land allocation models; Mexico; secondary forest.

Copyright © 2007 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087