Patterns of land system change in a Southeast Asian biodiversity hotspot

Schmid, Marc; Heinimann, Andreas; Zaehringer, Julie G. (2021). Patterns of land system change in a Southeast Asian biodiversity hotspot. Applied geography, 126, p. 102380. Elsevier 10.1016/j.apgeog.2020.102380

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Growing demand for agricultural commodities like rubber or oil palm is causing rapid change in Southeast Asia’s
biodiversity-rich forested landscapes. This change is particularly pronounced in Myanmar, whose economy is
developing at great speed after the end of decades-long economic and political isolation and armed conflicts.
Interventions are needed to ensure that development is sustainable. Designing successful interventions requires
spatially explicit knowledge of recent landscape changes. To provide such knowledge, we applied a landscape
mosaic approach and analysed land system change in Tanintharyi Region in southern Myanmar between 2002
and 2016. Our findings show that nearly half of the study region experienced degradation of the vegetation
cover, intensification of agricultural use, or a combination of both. Although intact forest was still the prevailing
vegetation cover of land systems in Tanintharyi Region in 2016, it had suffered from degradation in wide parts of
the region. Land systems without or with only extensive agricultural use in 2002 had become dominated by
smallholders’ shifting cultivation systems and permanent betel nut gardens and paddy rice fields by 2016.
Elsewhere, smallholder dominated land systems were intensified through the expansion of oil palm and rubber
plantations, pointing to potential displacement effects. The land system maps offer a sound basis for planning
interventions to slow the degradation of biodiversity-rich forests and support smallholder farmers in coping with
the fast-paced expansion of commercial cash crop plantations and its social and environmental impacts. Sustainable
development in this global biodiversity hotspot requires careful land use planning to support nature and
people, along with continued efforts for peace-building.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
10 Strategic Research Centers > Wyss Academy for Nature
10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Geographies of Sustainability > Unit Land Systems and Sustainable Land Management (LS-SLM)

UniBE Contributor:

Schmid, Marc David, Heinimann, Andreas, Zähringer, Julie Gwendolin


900 History > 910 Geography & travel






[1047] Managing Telecoupled Landscapes for Sustainable Provision of Ecosystem Services and Poeverty Alleviation




Andreas Heinimann

Date Deposited:

23 Dec 2020 08:34

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:43

Publisher DOI:





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