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The Professional Geographer Cloud Forest Conservation in the Central Highlands of Guatemala Hinges on Soil Conservation and Intensifying Food Production

The Professional Geographer Cloud Forest Conservation in the Central Highlands of Guatemala Hinges on Soil Conservation and Intensifying Food Production
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  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Download by:  [Purdue University] Date:  23 September 2015, At: 08:55 The Professional Geographer ISSN: 0033-0124 (Print) 1467-9272 (Online) Journal homepage: Cloud Forest Conservation in the CentralHighlands of Guatemala Hinges on SoilConservation and Intensifying Food Production Ian Pope, Jon Harbor, Laura Zanotti, Guofan Shao, Dawn Bowen & Gary R.Burniske To cite this article:  Ian Pope, Jon Harbor, Laura Zanotti, Guofan Shao, Dawn Bowen & GaryR. Burniske (2015): Cloud Forest Conservation in the Central Highlands of Guatemala Hingeson Soil Conservation and Intensifying Food Production, The Professional Geographer, DOI:10.1080/00330124.2015.1006556 To link to this article: Published online: 24 Mar 2015.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 29View related articles View Crossmark data  Cloud Forest Conservation in the Central Highlands of GuatemalaHinges on Soil Conservation and Intensifying Food Production Ian Pope, Jon Harbor, Laura Zanotti, and Guofan Shao Purdue University Dawn Bowen  University of Mary Washington Gary R. Burniske Purdue University Soil erosion threatens long-term soil fertility and food production in Q ’ eqchi ’  communities native to the Sierra Yalijux and SierraSacranix mountain ranges in the central highlands of Guatemala. Environmental factors such as steep topography, erodible soils,and intense precipitation events, combined with land subdivision and reduced fallow periods as a consequence of populationgrowth, contribute to severe erosion and strain soil resources. The preservation of the region ’ s cloud forests hinges onenhancing production of staple crops through agricultural intensi fi cation while maintaining soil fertility throughimplementation of soil conservation measures.  Key Words: cloud forest, food security, Guatemala, soil erosion. 土 壤 侵 蚀 , 对 瓜 地 马 拉 中 部 高 原 上 , Sierra Yalijux 和 Sierra Sacranix 山 脉 中 的 原 住 民 凯克其 ( Q’eqchi’ ) 社 群 的 长 期 土 壤 肥 沃 与 粮 食 生 产 , 带 来 了 威 胁 。 诸 如 陡 峭 的 地 形 、 可 被 侵 蚀 的 土 壤 、 密 集 的 降雨 事件 等 环 境 因 素 , 结 合 因 人 口 成 长 带 来 的 土地 细 分 与 减 少 的 休 耕 週 期 , 导 致 严 重 的 侵 蚀 与 土 壤 资 源滥 用 。 保 存 该 区 域 的 云 雾 森 林 , 取 决 于 透 过 农 业 集 约 化 来 促 进 主 要 作 物 的 生 产 , 并 同 时 透 过 土 壤 保 育 方 法 的 施 行 , 维 持 土 壤 的 肥 沃 度 。 关关 键键 词词 :: 云云 雾雾 森森 林林 ,, 粮粮 食食 安安 全全 ,, 瓜瓜 地地 马马 拉拉 ,, 土土 壤壤 侵侵 蚀蚀 。。 La erosi  on amenaza la fertilidad del suelo y la producci  on de alimentos en las comunidades Q ’ eqchi ’ , indígenas nativos de losramales monta ~ nosos de Sierra Yalijux y Sierra Sacranix, en las tierras altas centrales de Guatemala. Factores ambientales, talescomo topografía escabrosa, suelos erosionables y eventos de intensa precipitaci  on, combinados con la subdivisi  on de la tierra y lareducci  on de los períodos de barbecho como consecuencia del crecimiento de la poblaci  on, contribuyen a agravar la erosi  on y apresionar los recursos de la tierra. La preservaci  on de los bosques de niebla de la regi  on depende de la mejora en la producci  onde cultivos b  asicos, a trav   es de una intensi fi caci  on agrícola que mantenga la fertilidad del suelo, con la aplicaci  on de adecuadasmedidas conservacionistas.  Palabras clave: bosque de niebla, seguridad alimentaria, Guatemala, erosi  on del suelo. C onversion of forest to agricultural land is a conse-quence of efforts to meet the increasing demandfor food as populations grow (Oldeman, Hakkeling,and Sombroek 1990; Rosegrant and Cline 2003; Mil-lennium Ecosystem Assessment [MEA] 2005). Defor-estation threatens important ecosystem services,including potable water, climate regulation, carbonsequestration, soil fertility, waste management, and themaintenance of biodiversity (MEA 2005; Dominati,Patterson, and Mackay 2010), and leads to increasedsoil erosion (Restrepo and Syvitski 2006; Beskow et al.2009). Achieving the United Nations (UN) Millen-nium Development Goal to eradicate hunger andextreme poverty by 2015 (UN 2013) in conjunction with increased forest conservation will require agricul-tural intensi fi cation and innovation, and many develop-ment experts agree that to alleviate poverty the foodproduction of subsistence farmers must increase (Altieriand Nicholls 2008; Rosset 2008). In the absence of increased ef  fi ciency, the only way to increase foodproduction on a global scale is by converting moreland to agriculture (Grau and Aide 2008). Without effective soil conservation on agricultural land, how-ever, erosion decreases soil fertility and threatens long-term food security (Stocking 2003), encouraging fur-ther deforestation. Thus, addressing land degradationis critical not only for alleviating hunger but to ensurethat the world ’ s forests and soils are preserved and cancontinue to provide essential ecosystem services criticalfor human populations. Deforestation, land degrada-tion, climate change, and food security are thus inter-connected, and any attempt to develop sustainablestrategies to reduce deforestation requires a transdisci-plinary approach (Brandt et al. 2013) that examines thenexus of these phenomena. The interconnectedness of human – environment interactions is complex, and anapproach that spans a broad range of academic disci-plines and institutions, such as academia and nongov-ernmental organizations (NGOs), can enhancedevelopment efforts with expert knowledge.  The Professional Geographer, 0(0) 2015, pages 1 – 13 © Copyright 2015 by Association of American Geographers.Initial submission, March 2014; revised submission, May 2014;  fi nal acceptance, May 2014.Published by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   P  u  r   d  u  e   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   ]  a   t   0   8  :   5   5   2   3   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   5  Removal of forest for cropland is a prevailing landuse trend in Latin America (Grau and Aide 2008) andleads to decreased interception of rainfall andincreased compaction of the upper soil layer, increas-ing water-based erosion (Uhl, Buschbacher, andSerr ~ ao 1988; Restrepo and Syvitski 2006). Further-more, the loss of tropical forests has been linked toreduced evapotranspiration and cloud cover (Lawtonet al. 2001; Nair et al. 2003) and local changes in pre-cipitation regimes (Costa and Foley 2000; Ray et al.2006), which can further exacerbate land degradation. The negative effects of deforestation pose a seriousproblem in rural Latin America, including Q ’ eqchi ’ communities in Guatemala, especially when combined with subsistence farming practices that do not ade-quately meet the food demand.Land degradation threatens long-term food security in Guatemala (Shriar 2002), and in the Central High-lands region (Figure 1), agricultural practicesemployed by subsistence farmers to cultivate theirmost important staples, maize and beans, are relatively inef  fi cient and produce low yields (Isakson 2009). Soilfertility here is vulnerable to erosion due to steepslopes, moderate to highly erodible soils, and the lack of vegetation cover on agricultural land (Burke andSugg 2006). Scholars speculate that the combinationof slash-and-burn agriculture and population increasein Q ’ eqchi ’  communities has led to deforestation of cloud forest in the Sierra Yalijux mountain range insouthern Alta Verapaz (Renner, Voigt, and Markussen2006; Pope et al. 2015). Some community membersand conservation-focused NGOs are aware of key  Figure 1  Chilax and Sacranix catchments in the Sierra Yalijux and Sierra Sacranix study areas (black) located in the department of Alta Verapaz, Central Highlands of Guatemala. 2  Volume XX, Number X, Xxxxxxxxxxx 2015     D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   P  u  r   d  u  e   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   ]  a   t   0   8  :   5   5   2   3   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   5  aspects of the deforestation, land degradation, climatechange, and food security, but to target soil conserva-tion efforts as part of reducing loss of cloud forest, it isimportant to understand the spatial patterns of soilerosion produced by the various agricultural practices,environmental contexts, and land use change trends inthe Sierra Yalijux and Sierra Sacranix mountainranges. Soil erosion models can serve as valuable toolsto quantify soil loss patterns, especially when com-bined with a qualitative approach designed to analyze what subsistence farmers perceive, and how they makedecisions around food security, soil erosion, and defor-estation (Tegene 2003). The long-term consequences of soil erosion anddeforestation pose a threat to the ecosystem servicesand food security of the Q ’ eqchi ’  communities in thecentral highlands of Guatemala. A local-level analysisof the connections among soil loss, deforestation, andfood security has not been carried out in the region,and in this article we report on a comparative analysisof two catchments in the Sierra Yalijux and Sierra Sac-ranix. The objectives are to (1) quantify soil erosionbased on historical land use change and identify thecontributing factors of soil loss at the catchment scale,(2) understand farmer knowledge and perceptions of land degradation, and (3) develop a soil conservationscenario that targets areas of severe erosion and inte-grates farmer knowledge. We used a transdisciplinary approach integrating analysis of present-day and his-torical reconstruction of land use change from remotesensing and ground surveys, soil erosion modeling of conditions with and without alternate soil conserva-tion measures, interviews and surveys of farmers, andqualitative analysis of focus group narratives. Thisexample can inform efforts to understand transitionsoccurring in areas facing similar challenges and hasthe potential to enhance both food security and eco-system services in Q ’ eqchi ’  communities. In addition,the framework developed in this article could serve asa practical tool for studies of land degradation in otherdeveloping countries. Geographic Background Native Q ’ eqchi ’  living in cloud forest areas of the Cen-tral Highlands in Guatemala (Figure 1) rely on subsis-tence cultivation of   milpa,  which is the planting of maize, beans, and squash in one  fi eld (Isakson 2009;Pope et al. 2015), although many farmers choose to cul-tivate only maize. The Q ’ eqchi ’  often prepare agricul-tural  fi elds by slash-and-burn of secondary regrowthprior to cultivation (Renner, Voigt, and Markussen2006; Pope 2014). Since the 1980s, conservation-focused NGOs seeking to preserve the cloud forest have been planting fruit trees in communities in boththe Sierra Yalijux and Sierra Sacranix, and in many cases agroecological farming techniques have been suc-cessfully introduced. Many Q ’ eqchi ’  households lack necessary infrastructure, transportation, and electricpower and rely on nearby forests for fuelwood and tim-ber products. In 2002, the population in the three mainmunicipalities of the study area, Cob  an, San JuanChemelco, and San Pedro Carch  a, was over 325,000(Instituto Nacional de Estadística [INE] 2013). Wedescribe the landscapes surrounding two communities,Sebob and Sanimtaca, that are the foci of the study.Sebob and Sanimtaca are located in the south-cen-tral portion of the department of Alta Verapaz, aregion with two mountain ranges, the Sierra Yalijux and the Sierra Sacranix (Figure 1). The Sierra Yalijux is made up of three mountains, Monta ~ na Xucaneb, Monta ~ na Cacquipec, and Monta ~ na Yalijux, which areoriented from east to west, and is drained by the Polo-chic and Cahab  on Rivers. The Sierra Sacranix consistsof one large mountain and is drained by the Chixoy River to the west. The geology of the area consists of limestone and metamorphic rocks (Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería y Alimentaci  on [MAGA]2001), producing karst topography with steep slopesand irregular drainage patterns. The soils in the study region are primarily inceptisols, ultisols, and entisols(Simmons, Tarano, and Pinto 1959). Given the steepterrain, these soils have a low productive capacity andare generally nonarable (MAGA 2001; Figure 2) andare moderately erodible (Burke and Sugg 2006). Theregion typically receives consistent rainfall throughout the year, except during the dry season (approximately February  –  May), and mean annual precipitation in theregion ranges from 2,500 to 4,000 mm (MAGA 2001).In addition to direct precipitation, areas with cloudforest have an additional component of water accumu-lation on surfaces resulting from cloud  fi ltration. Insome cases, this can amount to up to 10 percent of thetotal incoming water (Ataroff and Rada 2000). The land use in the region is a patchwork of agricul-tural  fi elds, cattle pastures, and forest (Renner, Voigt,and Markussen 2006; Pope et al. 2015): cloud forest ( Quercus,  mixed) pine-oak (predominantly   Pinus maxi-minoii  ), pine plantations ( Pinus maximinoii  ), and sec-ondary growth. Cloud forest in the Sierra Yalijux andSierra Sacranix is a unique ecosystem that is found at high elevations, typically above 1,000 m above sealevel (Eisermann and Schulz 2005). Pine-oak forest isdominant at elevations less than 1,000 m and at higherelevations on south-facing slopes that receive less pre-cipitation. Cloud forest in the region consists of adiverse tree community that hosts a unique commu-nity of mosses, orchids, and epiphytes (Eisermann andSchulz 2005) and supports many endemic species of birds and other wildlife. The remaining land is usedfor agriculture and mainly consists of milpa, cashcrops, and secondary vegetation. The Chilax catchment is located in the upper Chilax River, which  fl ows from east to west along the easternportion of the Sierra Yalijux (Figure 3A). Located at between approximately 1,800 m and 2,100 m abovesea level, this » 7.5 km 2 catchment is characterized by steep slopes often exceeding 40 degrees with Telem  ansoils, which are dark brown and brown and are silty or Cloud Forest Conservation in the Central Highlands of Guatemala  3    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   P  u  r   d  u  e   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   ]  a   t   0   8  :   5   5   2   3   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   5  clay loams (MAGA 2001). The upper Chilax valley receives approximately 2,900 mm of rainfall per year.Cool temperatures permit cultivation of only one cropof milpa ( Zea mays, Phaseolus vulgaris  ) each year, along  with cash crops such as cabbage and broccoli. The lit-tle remaining cloud forest is located on steep slopesand along the ridgeline. Sebob, a community of approximately 110 nuclear families, is located in thecenter of the catchment. Fruit tree cultivation hasbeen successful throughout the community. The Sacranix catchment is located in the heart of theSierra Sacranix. Water from an unnamed spring   fl owsfrom a ridge to the bottom of a large doline (Ritter,Kochel, and Miller 2002) and then disappears into acave that ultimately drains into the Chixoy River (Fig-ure 3B). This  » 8.9 km 2 catchment is located between1,200 m and 1,650 m above sea level and receivesroughly 2,900 mm of rainfall per year (MAGA 2001). The very dark brown, loamy soils in the area are classi- fi ed under the Cob  an soil series (MAGA 2001). Onemilpa crop ( Zea mays, Phaseolus vulgaris  ) is cultivatedper year, although the somewhat lower elevation per-mits the cultivation of other valuable cash crops, suchas cardamom (  Elettaria cardamomum ). Sanimtaca, acommunity of roughly forty- fi  ve nuclear families, occu-pies the middle and lower portion of the doline, whichconsists of a patchwork of agricultural  fi elds, pineplantations, and secondary forest, as well as cloud forest on the ridges (Figure 3). In 1996, this community began successfully intercropping coffee and bananatrees through an agricultural cooperative, in largepart through education and assistance from localNGOs. Methods Land Use Change  Reconstruction of land use data served as the basis fora multitemporal land use analysis to provide C factor values for the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation Figure 3  A view of (A) Sebob from the north and (B) Sanimtaca from the west. (Color figure available online.)  Figure 2  Agricultural productive capacity of the soils in Alta Verapaz. Areas shown in yellow, orange, and red are nonara- ble. (Color figure available online.)  4   Volume XX, Number X, Xxxxxxxxxxx 2015     D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   P  u  r   d  u  e   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   ]  a   t   0   8  :   5   5   2   3   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   5
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