Discussion Paper

Land Cover in a Managed Forest Ecosystem: Mexican Shade Coffee

Jun 29, 2007 | Allen Blackman, Heidi J. Albers, Beatriz Ávalos-Sartorio, Lisa Crooks


Managed forest ecosystems—agroforestry systems in which crops such as coffee and bananas are planted side-by-side with woody perennials—are being touted as a means of safeguarding forests along with the ecological services they provide. Yet we know little about the determinants of land cover in such systems, information needed to design effective forest conservation policies. This paper presents a spatial regression analysis of land cover in a managed forest ecosystem—a shade coffee region of coastal Mexico. Using high-resolution land cover data derived from aerial photographs along with data on the geophysical and institutional characteristics of the study area, we find that plots in close proximity to urban centers are less likely to be cleared, all other things equal. This result contrasts sharply with the literature on natural forests. In addition, we find that membership in coffee-marketing cooperatives, farm size, and certain soil types are associated with forest cover, while proximity to small town centers is associated with forest clearing.