Relationships of Agricultural Land Use to an Expanded Road Network within Tropical Forest Landscapes of Cameroon and Republic of the Congo
Road building in Congo Basin forests has increased due to expansion of commercial logging, with potential to expose intact forests to greater establishment of agriculture. We developed new knowledge of agriculture clearing sizes, spatial patterns, and relationships with roads in seven case study sites comprising 7,529 km2. Using very high spatial resolution satellite imagery, we mapped roads and rivers, plus clearings for agriculture, settlements, and logging. Mapped clearings (N = 1,781) ranged in size from 0.008 ha to more than 300 ha; most were smallholder agriculture, with 64 percent ≤ 1 ha. Statistical tests of spatial pattern confirmed that agriculture occurred in an inhomogeneous-aggregated pattern, suggesting interactions with other landscape elements. Proximity analyses showed that 76 percent of clearings were within 1 km of a road or river. Thirty-five percent of agriculture clearings were within 1 km of main public roads built before 1990, compared to 17 percent for logging roads built after 2000. Less than 6 percent of agriculture clearings were within 1 km of logging roads with overgrown canopies, suggesting transient relationships. Results based on fine-scale data provide new empirical support for understanding the interactions between agriculture and roads in one of the remaining relatively intact forest areas of the Congo Basin.