Land cover dynamics following a deforestation ban in northern Costa Rica
Forest protection policies potentially reduce deforestation and re-direct agricultural expansionto already-cleared areas. Using satellite imagery, we assessed whether deforestation forconversion to pasture and cropland decreased in the lowlands of northern Costa Rica followingthe 1996 ban on forest clearing, despite a tripling of area under pineapple cultivation in the lastdecade. We observed that following the ban, mature forest loss decreased from 2.2% to 1.2%per year, and the proportion of pineapple and other export-oriented cropland derived frommature forest declined from 16.4% to 1.9%. The post-ban expansion of pineapples and othercrops largely replaced pasture, exotic and native tree plantations, and secondary forests.Overall, there was a small net gain in forest cover due to a shifting mosaic of regrowth andclearing in pastures, but cropland expansion decreased reforestation rates. We conclude thatforest protection efforts in northern Costa Rica have likely slowed mature forest loss andsucceeded in re-directing expansion of cropland to areas outside mature forest. Our resultssuggest that deforestation bans may protect mature forests better than older forest regrowthand may restrict clearing for large-scale crops more effectively than clearing for pasture.