Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Pillaging Bloodwood: An Exploratory Examination of Illegal Deforestation in Guinea-Bissau Through Forest Disturbance Algorithms and Unsupervised Clustering Techniques Public Deposited

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  • Environmental crime around the world, such as trafficking in illegal timber, is directly related to political instability. Traffickers exploit weak, fragile, and chaotic political circumstances to illegally extract high-value commodities, challenging the extent to which conservation goals are achievable in resource rich developing countries. Rosewood is the largest traded endangered species in the world and in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau, political instability culminating in 2012, opened the doors for the rampant illegal exploitation of the valuable African rosewood tree, Pterocarpus Erinaceus. This thesis attempts to identify the spatial and temporal patterns of rosewood deforestation within Guinea-Bissau using a mixed methodology of expert interviews, and analysis of the Hansen Forest Loss /dataset. To identify rosewood extractions and distinguish them from background land use disturbance patterns, 16 metrics were calculated per contiguous deforestation patches between the years 2001 and 2018. Each patch was then ascribed a cluster based on its landscape properties using the Density-Based Spatial Clustering of Applications with Noise (DBSCAN) algorithm. Patch clusters were then assessed and compared against patterns and locations of rosewood extraction identified during field research conducted in April to May 2019. Interviews conducted with stakeholders indicated a rapid increase of small (<.5ha) and disperse patches cut down during the years 2012 to 2015, distinctly different from traditional land uses that are measured from 2001 to 2018. Initial results show that national parks are more effective at protecting against illicit rosewood extraction than other rural areas. This implies that the stability of governance, through foreign funding sources, in the national parks during a period of extreme political turmoil buffered against the impacts of the illicit rosewood trade. This thesis demonstrates how open-source satellite data can be employed to identify where illicit environmental activities have occurred over large geographic areas. The case of illicit rosewood harvest in Guinea-Bissau sheds light on the ways this species is being exploited in politically fragile countries. Identifying ecological impacts of the extraction illuminates the linkages between governance and the illicit trade of endangered species.
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