Characterizing Human-Environment Interactions in the Galápagos Islands: A Case Study of Land Use/Land Cover Dynamics in Isabela Island Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • McCleary, Amy L.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography
  • This dissertation examines contemporary land use and land cover (LULC) change in the communities and protected areas of Isabela Island to provide insights into human-environment interactions in the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador. The growing human presence in Galápagos over the last four decades has been accompanied by significant changes in LULC on inhabited islands in the archipelago. Local stakeholders and decision-makers have recently called for a more integrative approach to understanding interactions between people and the environment in the archipelago. This study is guided by two complementary bodies of work situated within the human-environment tradition of Geography - land change science and landscape ecology. First, support Vector Machine (SVM) and Object Based Image Analysis (OBIA) classifiers are evaluated for mapping LULC from high spatial resolution satellite images. The results show that thematic LULC classifications produced by OBIA are more accurate overall than those generated by SVM. However, important tradeoffs exist between improvements in classification accuracy and processing requirements. The composition and spatial configuration of LULC change are then mapped and quantified from a time series of QuickBird and WorldView-2 satellite images from 2003 to 2010. The pattern metric and change detection analyses reveal that land use change is extensive within the communities due to the expansion and consolidation of built-up areas, and fragmentation of and declines in agriculture. The Galápagos National Park is primarily transformed by exotic plant invasion, forests expansion, and shrinking coastal lagoons. Patterns of agricultural land abandonment, plant invasion, and forest expansion over the same period are described from pattern metric and overlay analyses. Potential drivers of these LULC transitions are identified from logistic regression models, descriptive statistics of agricultural surveys and population censuses, and interviews with landowners. The results reveal that agricultural abandonment is widespread throughout Isabela, and many abandoned fields are invaded by introduced plants, such as guava. Biophysical and geographic factors, such as topography and distance to roads, do not significantly explain patterns of agricultural land abandonment or associated land cover transitions at the pixel level. However, rural-urban migration, declines in the profitability of agriculture, and small labor pools appear to influence agricultural abandonment.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Walsh, Stephen J.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013

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