Mapping Original Forest Cover in Haiti

Ecosystem Threat Assessment and Protected Area Strategy for the Massif de la Hotte Key Biodiversity Area, Haiti

LARSE Investigators: Z YangWB Cohen

Deforestation in Haiti is well documented, with an estimated original forest cover remaining of approximately 1%. This widespread deforestation is primarily a result of hundreds of years of spreading subsistence agriculture and cutting for cooking fuel. Most of the remnant stands of original forest cover in Haiti are highly fragmented, with the last remnants primarily found in Massif de la Hotte mountain range of the southwest. This area has been identified as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a “place of international importance for the conservation of biodiversity”. While much of this region itself has been completely denuded of forest cover, it is a critical refuge for Haiti’s remaining biodiversity, as it has been estimated that over 80% of the animal species in the Massif de la Hotte identified by the IUCN as threatened are endemic to Haiti and the majority are found only within the Massif de la Hotte. Outside of the KBA, it is not known where or if any remnant original forest stands exist that are capable of supporting Haiti’s threatened species. It is therefore critical that all of these original forest patches be located and prioritized for conservation.

To accomplish this, we are taking advantage of the rich temporal archive of Landsat data using time series methods. In this work we are collaborating with Dr. Blair Hedges at Temple University with the larger goals of (1) determining the areas in greatest need of protection and threats to their existence; and (2) developing self-sustaining education and public outreach projects that will reach both Haitians and non-Haitians.

The role of our lab is to provide 30m resolution forest cover data for the entire country that best represents original, native forest. We are doing that by using Landsat time series imagery, looking for places that have been continuously forested since 1972. The resulting map allows the project teams to best assess the current conservation threats and their precise locations.

Collaborators: Blair Hedges

Funding: Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEFP) 

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