The Impact of deforestation on the regional climate of Maya lowlands of Guatemala

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Vani Starry Manoharan, Univ. of Alabama, Huntsville, AL; and R. M. Welch and R. O. Lawton

The Peten basin of Guatemala is a region in Mesoamerica experiencing extensive deforestation. Twelve 30x30 sq.km forested, deforested and partially deforested habitats are selected to compare changes in surface temperature, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and soil moisture parameters derived from MODIS satellite data during the dry and wet seasons from 2000 to 2008. During the wet season surface temperatures, soil moisture, and NDVI values have similar values in forested and deforested regions. During the dry season, deforested regions tend to be 4-8 degree Celsius warmer than nearby forested regions, along with significantly lower values of NDVI and soil moisture.

From 2000 to 2008, the partially deforested regions became progressively warmer during the dry season, and both NDVI and soil moisture values approached those of the deforested regions. A supervised classification revealed that three partially deforested regions contained 17.7%, 12.9% and 13.4% forests in 2000, decreasing to 2.9%, 8.3% and 4.7%, respectively, in 2008. Overall, partially forested regions in the Peten region decreased in forest cover by 9.3% from 2000 to 2008, while there has been a 0.33%/yr deforestation rate over the entire Peten basin.