Simulating land-use decisions in the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve buffer zone in Costa Rica and Panama Academic Article uri icon


  • Human demand for agricultural products leads to land degradation, deforestation, habitat destruction, and loss of biodiversity. Effective management of land for both agricultural and conservation purposes remains central to sustainable development efforts. We describe development of a preliminary model that integrates ecological, economic, and social factors affecting land-use decisions in the buffer zone of the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve in Costa Rica and Panama. The model simulates potential shifts in the distribution of land among six alternative uses and the resulting impacts on the finances of rural families living within the buffer zone over the next decade. The output of interest is changes in land use as measured by the number of hectares in each of the six land-use classes. In baseline simulations, farmers tended to convert land, particularly forested hectares, into agricultural land uses. Sensitivity analysis showed that model results appeared more sensitive to economic and social factors than they did to ecological factors. Given the relatively short 10-year simulations, changes in topsoil-loss rates had no effect on final land-use distributions. Of four management strategies simulated, decreasing production costs by 25% yielded the largest final amount of cash on hand after 10 years. Generally, increasing tourism profit by 50% yielded the next-highest financial benefits, followed by increasing conservation subsidy by 50% and decreasing annual interest rate by 50%. We consider the primary contribution of the present model to be examination, at the individual farm level, of the relative influence of ecological, economic, and social factors on land-use decisions and distribution. Ideally, such studies will have the potential to influence management interventions that enable buffer zone farmers to achieve financial security and, as a by-product, balance land-use distribution in buffer-zone agroecosystems, which may help to maintain biodiversity. 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Duffy, S. B., Corson, M. S., & Grant, W. E.

citation count

  • 17

complete list of authors

  • Duffy, SB||Corson, MS||Grant, WE

publication date

  • May 2001