Human dimensions of conservation, land use, and climate change in Huascaran National Park, Peru



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This research adopts a multi-scale approach to examine the patterns, processes, and perceptions of landscape change within the core and buffer zone of Huascaran National Park, Peru. Within the park’s boundaries are the extensively glaciated Cordillera Blanca Mountains, where runoff from glaciers feeds into lakes, streams, and wetlands to provide hydrologic resources to populations on the periphery for agriculture, as well as hydropower to populations in distant urban areas. Inhabitants living on the periphery have livelihoods that are dependant upon land and natural resources found within the park’s core and buffer zone, while governance institutions mediate access and resource use. Landscape transformations occurring within and around the park are a result of human agency, biophysical change, and global climate change. A suite of qualitative and quantitative methodologies were used to investigate the coupled social and ecological dynamics of conservation, land use, and implications of climate change in Huascaran National Park. The principal objectives of this research were to assess the spatial and temporal patterns of landscape change using land-use and land-cover data from remotely sensed imagery and to examine the role of institutions on resource governance at multiple scales. A hybrid classification method was used to classify Landsat (TM and ETM+) satellite data for the years of 1987 and 2001. Hypotheses regarding the spatial and temporal dynamics of land-cover change were tested. Results indicate that the percent of land cover from the woodland, cropland, and snow and ice classes were reduced internal to the core of the national park, while the land-cover class of shrubland increased. Interviews with 143 informants revealed perceptions of landscape change and narratives of socio-political land use change. Interview data corroborated the findings of reduced land cover in the snow and ice class. Data also demonstrated that legacies of land tenure and governance are essential for evaluating the adaptive capacity of different institutions and communities confronting conditions of climate change. This research contributes to literature on dynamics and processes of landscape change by bridging analytical frameworks from landscape ecology, cultural and political ecology, and land change science and contributing to human dimensions of global change research.