Landscape effects on soil fertility across Belize

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


Globally there is an increasing rate of deforestation that leads to land deterioration, such as soil infertility. It is well established that the population is growing; therefore, there is a need to increase food security. To determine the causes of deforestation, I investigated the reasons underlying land conversion from forest to agricultural lands by answering the following questions: Was it because of accessible roads? If it is because of accessibility, how does it affect soil properties? To answer these questions, I focused on three agricultural communities: Shipyard (Conservative Mennonites), Spanish Lookout (Progressive Mennonites), and Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve (Mayas). These communities are to focus on the scale of agriculture related to each ethnicity and the rate of deforestation. I compared these parts of the country: Shipyard, Spanish Lookout, and Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve using the Geographic Information system (GIS) software, ArcPro version 2.9, to calculate the difference in deforestation by each Community using scanned maps dated 1958 by Charles Wright and datasets from secondary sources. Although the maps by Wright are outdated, the information is essential for the land use/land cover analysis. I also verified whether the forest lost was suitable (fertile) land according to Charles' Natural Vegetation and Provisional Soil Maps. The comparison helped me identify the trend in land cover change in small-scale farming, large-scale farming, and farming within a protected area in Belize. My results showed that the Shipyard and Spanish Lookout communities primarily contributed to forest loss and agriculture expansion on fertile lands. In contrast, the Mayan Community in the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve showed much lower rates of forest less and these soils were relatively less fertile. These results also indicated that the Mennonites practiced large-scale agriculture compared to the Maya, who practiced small-scale agriculture, based on the quantity of clearing-cutting acres of forested lands. However, the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve’s agricultural development appeared to be encroaching on non suitable (non-fertile) lands with soils of low pH and high rainfall, which could lead to higher rates of degradation. In addition, my analysis suggested road networks were not the primary reason for deforestation since decreasing road density trends are the converse of increasing deforestation trends. Together, my results predict that if deforestation within the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve continues to increase, then it will eventually be higher than the deforestation rates of either Shipyard or Spanish Lookout.



remote sensing, montana grasslands, above ground biomass


Coe, Monica Rosemarie. "Landscape Effects on Soil Fertility across Belize." Montana State University, 2022, pp. 1-53.
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