Understanding how communities use land in order to inform a sustainable future


Land use reflects the interaction between communities and their environment. Measuring the rate of change in forest cover as well as farm and community expansion gives us an understanding of how lands and forests are being used and managed within the Maya Golden Landscape. This comprehensive insight is used to tailor advice and support provided to communities on land use and compliance in protected areas.


Every eight days, at an almost real time pace, we are able to tack how land use and land cover are changing within the Maya Golden Landscape through the use of freely available satellite images. Global Position Systems (GPS) are used to collect data from the field to ensure image analysis are accurate. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing technologies provide us with the framework and the necessary tools for us to track, quantify and analyze those changes.


During the last 34 years, traditional Maya farming, cattle ranching, intensive agricultural plantations and escaped fires have created a complex agricultural mosaic in the Maya Golden Landscape.

In 2013 and 2014, clearance of vegetation for farming happened almost equally within the existing agricultural areas (which we refer to as agricultural matrix) as in untouched forests – areas which have not been used for agriculture in the past. In 2013, 0.73% of the MGL’s untouched forests were lost to agriculture and escaped fires. Whereas in 2014, 0.30% were cleared for agriculture but no escaped fires happened outside the agricultural matrix. The following year in 2015, there was an increase in the loss of untouched forests but it was lower than that seen in 2013.

There is a continued net decrease in forest and increase of farming areas in the Maya Golden Landscape.

Land use from 2013-2015 in the MGL - Maximiliano Caal

Agricultural activity in the Maya Golden Landscape from 2013 to 2015 | Graph: Ya’axché

Land use land cover change in the MGL - Ya'axche

Land use and land cover change for the years 2013 and 2015 in the Maya Golden Landscape | Map: Ya’axché


We have been analyzing satellite imagery from since 1980 for changes in land use and land cover in the Maya Golden Landscape.

PDF: Land use/Land cover Change in the MGL 1980-2010
PDF: Land Use/Land cover Change in the MGL 2015
Story Map: Fire Danger Risk Mapping Projections for the MGL

For more resources go to the downloads section of our website.