Forest Cover Change and Soil Erosion in Toledo's Rio Grande Watershed
- Department of Civil Environmental Engineering, Nagasaki University, 1-14 Bunkyo, Nagasaki 852-8521, Japan
Keywords: Maya, Land Use Change, Forest, Erosion, RUSLE, GIS
Abstract. Toledo, the southernmost district, is the hub of Belize’s Mayan population, descendants of the ancient Mayan civilization. The Toledo District is primarily inhibited by Kekchi and Mopan Mayans whose subsistence needs are met by the Milpa slash-and-burn agricultural system and the extraction of forest resources. The poverty assessment in the country indicates that Toledo is the district with the highest percentage of household an individual indigence of 37.5 % and 49.7 % respectively. Forest cover change in the area can be attributed to rapid population growth among the Maya, together with increase in immigration from neighboring countries, logging, oil exploration and improvement and construction of roads. The forest cover change analysis show that from 2001 to 2011 there was a decrease of Lowland broad-leaved wet forest of 7.53 km sq, Shrubland of 4.66 km sq, and Wetland of 0.08 km sq. Forest cover change has resulted in soil erosion which is causing the deterioration of soils. The land cover types that are contributing the most to total erosion in the Rio Grande watershed are no-forest, lowland broad-leaved wet forest and submontane broad-leaved wet forest. In this study the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) was employed in a GIS platform to quantify and assess forest cover change and soil erosion. Soil erosion vulnerability maps in Toledo’s Rio Grande watershed were also created. This study provides scientifically sound information in order to understand and respond effectively to the impacts of soil erosion in the study site.