Sustainability and forest transitions in the southern Yucatán: The land architecture approach

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50 Scopus citations


Consistent with the challenges of sustainability science, land architecture offers a comprehensive approach to land system dynamics useful for numerous types of assessments, ranging from the vulnerability of coupled human-environment systems to forest transitions. With antecedents in several research communities, land architecture addresses the tradeoffs within and between the human and environmental subsystems of land systems in terms of the kind, magnitude, and pattern of land uses and covers. This approach is especially cogent for changes in tropical forests, given the broad-ranging forces acting on them and the equally broad-ranging consequences of their loss. The rudiments of the land architecture approach are illustrated for changes in seasonal tropical forests in the southern Yucatán of Mexico, the pivot of which is the Calakmul biosphere reserve. Simplifying the dynamics involved, the region-wide land architecture is the collective design of stakeholders with different land-use goals that favor tradeoffs in subsystem outcomes serving better either the reserve and related programs or the smallholder farmers that populate the region. A major tradeoff involves forest cover per se, which holds implications for forest transition theory. Evidence for an incipient transition involves the scale of analysis taken. The dynamics involved hold too much uncertainty to forecast a permanent transition to more forest cover and imply that more complex but robust versions of the theory are required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-179
Number of pages10
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Calakmul biosphere reserve
  • Coupled human-environment systems
  • Forest transition
  • Land architecture
  • Land change
  • Sustainability
  • Tropical forests
  • Yucatán

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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