Stephen Leisz, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Presentation Title: Road development, rural and urban land-cover/use changes and urban expansion




This study investigates the role that road expansion and development in Southeast Asia is playing on rural-urban development interactions, urban expansion, and on land-use and land-cover changes. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the analysis of road expansion in Amazonia indicated that roads served as conduits for settlers into the region and the resulting settler-forest interaction led to deforestation. Following this, many have assumed that roads act as, or, at least operate to facilitate drivers of deforestation in remote or frontier regions. Recently in Southeast Asia this narrative is being challenged, e.g., these changes as they are being evidenced along the east-west economic corridor from Da Nang, Vietnam to Khon Kaen, Thailand.

Policy/Practice Implications of Research

One potential influence is the rethinking of the role that roads have on land-use/land-cover in the region.  The resulting impact from connecting the rural to the urban markets are changes in the choices made by the rural population with regard to what they produce (Central Vietnam) or how they allocate labor (Northeast Thailand).  The implication in both cases is that less labor is available for previously emphasized agricultural production (e.g., rice cultivation in both places) and an increase in tree-cover. If initial findings play out, this will call for a rethinking of policy and strategies with regard to road development in rural areas, among other implications.

Knowledge Gaps and Needs

Knowledge gaps have to do with the exact nature of the tree cover that is appearing on the landscape. Is this tree cover analogous to the ‘natural’ tree cover previously found in the area, or are these tree crops?  If the latter, how do these tree crops interact with the ecosystem services of the area and what downstream effects are there because of the increase in these tree crops?