Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
102R: The role of warfare and armed conflicts in land systems
Thursday, 25/Apr/2019:
3:15pm - 4:45pm

Session Chair: Matthias Baumann
Session Chair: Andreas Foroe Tollefsen
Location: UniS-A 022
UniS Building, room A 022, ground floor, 72 seats
Session Topics:
What are the visions for the planetary land system?

Session Abstract

Armed conflict impacts land-use decision making, and thus land-system change, in major ways. Armed conflicts are frequent globally, with about 50 active conflicts in 2017 and 285 conflicts since WWII. Our understanding of how this impacts land-use agents and land systems, however, remains limited. For example, armed conflict may have diverging effects including increasing and decreasing land-use pressure, and it remains unclear whether combinations of land systems and conflict types result in similar land-use outcomes. Likewise, critical feedbacks between land use and armed conflict are poorly understood. This hampers our understanding on the causal mechanisms behind this relationship, and therefore our ability to quantify the impacts that armed conflicts can have over different scales, including at distal locations. The GLP emphasizes the importance of armed conflict in shaping land use, particularly in the interrelation with other megadrivers of future land-use change “[…] such as globalization, climate change and food security …]”.

This session aims at bringing together social and natural scientists as well as a mix of qualitative and quantitative researchers to explore these core overarching questions: (1) What are typical land-use outcomes of warfare, and what is the role of land use in triggering conflict? (2) Through which mechanisms do armed conflicts forge distal linkages (telecouplings)? (3) What is the role of armed conflict on land use in the context of other megadrivers of future land-use change?

The session seeks contributions to all three questions, and strongly relates to theme 1 (What are visions for the planetary land system?), as armed conflicts have impacts on land systems locally as well as at distal locations. More broadly, the session directly addresses a central theme of the Global Land Program (i.e., land use and conflict), and has the major goal of identifying interested GLP members to discuss a future research agenda.

Full talk
ID: 475 / 102R: 1
102R The role of warfare and armed conflicts in land systems
Keywords: warfare, forest loss, shocks, land systems

Understanding the effects of armed conflict on tropical forest loss

Matthias Baumann1, Jonas Peters2, Rune Christiansen2, Van Butsic3, Tobias Kuemmerle1,4

1Geography Department, Humboldt-University Berlin, Germany; 2Dep. of Mathematical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; 3Dep. of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California at Berkeley; 4Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys), Humboldt-University Berlin, Germany

Armed conflicts are globally frequent and represent major shocks in land systems, with potentially widespread effects on many drivers determining land-use decisions. Many tropical forest countries have been or are undergoing periods of armed conflicts, yet our understanding of how conflicts impact forests is scarce. Existing work suggests that the effects on land use are diverse and that alternative outcomes are possible. Armed conflict can lead to more forest loss, for example when weak law enforcement foster illegal extraction of firewood, timber or metals. Conversely, armed conflict could be associated with less forest loss, for instance, where commercial timber harvesting becomes too risky, or mining concessions, an important driver of tropical forest loss, may lay idle. To elucidate the conflict-deforestation relationship, and how it varies depending on conflict type, we carried out a first pan-tropical, spatially explicit assessment. We used new high-resolution datasets on forest loss and armed conflict within a matching panel-regression framework for the period 2001 to 2017. During that period, 40,000 conflict events with at least one fatality had happened in the tropics, mostly in areas where forest loss was also high. Our analyses point to generally increasing forest loss rates during times of conflict, but the effect size varies regionally and in its magnitude. In addition, the type of the armed conflict and its severity are important determinants of forest loss. Overall, our work suggest that armed conflict is an important factor mediating tropical deforestation.

Full talk
ID: 298 / 102R: 2
102R The role of warfare and armed conflicts in land systems
Keywords: Latin America, violence, conflict, land use, Colombia

Impacts of violence on land use in Latin America: the good, the bad and the ugly.

T. Mitchell Aide

University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico (U.S.)

In Latin America, the transformation of forests into pastures and croplands has been the dominant land use dynamic for decades, but in some regions and countries forests have recovered. Forest recovery has been associated with a shift from agriculture to manufacturing and service industries and rural-urban migration. In addition, armed conflicts and high levels of violence in Latin America are other potential drivers of land use change, and in some cases, these dynamics have led to forest gain. Here, we focus on Colombia and Mexico where extreme violence associated with guerrilla activity and drug trafficking has had dramatic impacts on land use. In both cases, outmigration and agriculture abandonment were associated with violence. This resulted in an increase in woody vegetation, but the persistence of these secondary forests has varied greatly. Specifically, in Colombia most of the gains in forest cover associated with violence have been lost as secure access to these areas has been established. Although the promoters of violence may contribute to reforestation in some areas, they are responsible for deforestation in other areas. For example, deforestation for pastures, oil palm plantations, and illegal mining have been identified as schemes for money laundering. In addition, we show a strong negative relationship between murder rate and land prices in Central America, but country-level changes in forest cover do not show a clear pattern. We conclude that the impact of violence on the fate of forests and other land uses is highly variable in time and space, but most importantly, at best, intact forests are being converted into secondary forests with a depauperate fauna.

Flash talk
ID: 414 / 102R: 3
102R The role of warfare and armed conflicts in land systems
Keywords: armed conflict, land degradation, remote sensing, civil war, GIS

Land Degradation and organized violence: Exploring the potential of remote sensing in environment-conflict studies

Andreas Foroe Tollefsen

Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Norway

Understanding the extent and rate of degradation and desertification in dryland regions of the world has been described as one of the most critical issues of our time. Over 2 billion people inhabit these regions and provide >40% of the world's population with food. Reductions in the productivity of these regions have been shown to have significant social and political impacts and plausibly social conflict. Given its socio-political and ecological significance, the United Nations have designated the accurate quantification of dryland degradation as a high priority. Remote sensing has been presented as a potential answer to quantifying degradation. Meanwhile, there has been considerable debate about the possible effects of climatic and environmental anomalies on social conflict. The field has not reached a consensus, but studies show that the mechanisms and causal pathways are complex. To date, research on the environment-conflict nexus has mainly employed meteorological data on weather anomalies. However, data availability is an issue, with a generally low density of meteorological stations in many low- and middle-income countries where conflict is a major recurring problem. Another issue is that stations and the quality of reporting (can be) affected by conflict itself, leading to an endogenous relationship between conflict and weather reporting. Few studies of organized violence to date employ remote sensing to measure environmental conditions such as land degradation. Thus, in this study, we first develop rich global time-series data on variations in vegetation and land degradation using remote sensing integrated into the PRIO-GRID framework. Second, we assess the impact of land degradation anomalies on the risk of sub-national conflict in dryland regions (globally).

Flash talk
ID: 322 / 102R: 4
102R The role of warfare and armed conflicts in land systems
Keywords: conflict, forest fires, remote sensing, landscape

The effects of conflict and forest fire on people and land: a case study from Dersim, Turkey

Pinar Dinc, Aiman Shahpurwala, Lina Eklund

Lund University, Sweden

Since the 1990s, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, PKK) has been accusing the Turkish state for deliberately damaging the environment by burning fields and forests (Etten et. al. 2008) or destroying the ecological balance with dam projects. The Turkish state has never accepted these claims and further argued that the PKK itself was to blame for burning the forests and preventing state investments in the region.

Dersim, an eastern province in Turkey, is a mountainous region with numerous rivers, lakes, valleys, and grottos that have provided a fertile ground for various insurgent movements since the late 1960s. The natural environment in Dersim, such as the Munzur River and the Munzur Natural Valley, are valuable not only as natural resources and habitats but are also religiously sacred for the Dersim/Alevi culture. This controversy makes Dersim a unique case to explore the environment-conflict relationship.

In this paper we look into whether forest fires are linked to increased conflict activity in the Dersim area and what the effects of such forest fires are on the landscape and the people living there from an interdisciplinary perspective. We use a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to better understand the coupled human-environment system in this conflict region. Forest fires are identified using a remote-sensing approach involving thermal anomalies and burn scars, that is combined in a spatial analysis together with geospatial conflict data. We also study the short term and, when possible, longer term effects on the natural and anthropogenic vegetation in the area, such as land cover changes. This approach is complemented by a social science approach to migration and traumatic memory as a result of conflict.

Full talk
ID: 687 / 102R: 5
102R The role of warfare and armed conflicts in land systems
Keywords: deforestation, armed conflict, species loss, conservation, colombia

Projecting the future of Colombian species under three scenarios of forest cover change: the role of the armed conflict in deforestation

Isabel Rosa1, Edwin Peña2, Elkin Urbano2, Ivan Gonzalez2, José Ochoa-Quintero2

1Bangor University, United Kingdom; 2Humboldt Research Institute, Bogotá, Colombia

Colombian forests are one of the most biodiversity-rich across the globe, but large areas have been over the last decades under the control of armed guerilla. Starting in 2010, conflict actions slowly reduced, and culminated in 2016 with the signing of a new peace agreement. Questions have been raised regarding the future of these forests, as people return to their lands and opportunities for development become available. In this study, we investigated historical deforestation rates and patterns in Colombia during the last 15 years (2000-2015) and associated them with the location and density of armed conflict actions. Then, we used a spatially explicit deforestation model to simulate forest cover change in Colombia by 2030 as a results of three scenarios: 1) conditions of high conflict are maintained (2000-2005), 2) overall time period trend maintains (2000-2015) and 3) conditions of low conflict are maintained (2010-2015). Using these scenarios we projected the impact on species distributions (total, endemic and threatened) by 2030, under the three scenarios. As opposed to common understanding, we found that deforestation rates were much higher during the time of high armed conflict in Colombia, as compared with the last 5 years. Further, we found that if the deforestation rates from the early 2000s would have maintained, there would be a significantly higher loss in species as compared to both the overall period and the low conflict scenarios by 2030, jeopardizing the future of many endemic species. With the expected infrastructure development projected in this post-peace agreement era such loss might be exacerbated. Therefore, projecting future impacts on local biodiversity under this new socio-economic and political context is extremely important to support conservation actions towards preserving such biodiversity-rich ecosystems.

Full talk
ID: 709 / 102R: 6
102R The role of warfare and armed conflicts in land systems
Keywords: land governance, land use decision-making, land use change, armed conflict, distal linkages

Does it really contribute to peace- and state-building? Land governance and land use changes in war and post-war southern Myanmar

Lara Maria Lundsgaard-Hansen1,2, Nwe Nwe Tun3, Glenn Hunt1, Joan Bastide1, Win Myint3, Flurina Schneider1,2, Peter Messerli1,2

1Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern; 2Institute of Geography, University of Bern; 3Environmental Care and Community Security Institute, Myanmar

From the 1950s to 2011, the central military of Myanmar and the Karen ethnic armed organisation (EAO) fought over control of land and people in Tanintharyi Region, southern Myanmar. As mechanism for “peace- and state-building”, the central military granted large-scale land concessions inside the territory of active fighting to domestic and foreign investors for e.g. the purpose of food security (palm oil), international energy supply, and a special economic zone. The EAO opposed those actions and conflicts further escalated. Contrary to the central military, the EAO perceived their own engagement in the conflicts as necessary defence measures against land grabbing and human rights violations by the distant central state. Hence, land use changes triggered conflicts, and the conflicts in return triggered further land use changes.

Moreover, the presence of fighting led to an absence of law enforcement on the ground. This resulted in non-transparent development of mechanisms around land use decision-making at medium- and small-scale. Unatoned deforestation, land speculations and brokering by villagers and urban elites were the consequence.

In the year 2012, the fighting stopped and the country opened to international market and organisations. What followed was a post-war reform period with new mechanisms of land use decision-making; unfortunately not all of them were sustainable.

This session contribution elaborates drivers and impacts of conflictual and messy mechanisms of land use decision-making during warfare in southern Myanmar, but also how land use decision-making changed post-war. It further explores how both conflict parties created distal linkages during war and post-war for strengthening own forces for the control of land and people.

The presented case study research of three years used qualitative and quantitative methods such as focus groups, interviews, surveys, and literature review. The conceptual background was an actor-agency framework elaborated from the telecoupling concept, combined with a social network analysis.

Full talk
ID: 662 / 102R: 7
102R The role of warfare and armed conflicts in land systems
Keywords: deforestation, Colombia peace treaty, fires, conflict

Recent Deforestation increases reveal unforeseen costs of Colombian Peace

Dolors Armenteras2, Laura Schneider1, Liliana Davalos3

1Department of Geography, Rutgers University, United States of America; 2Departamento de Biologia, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia; 3Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, United States of America

The signing of Colombia’s peace accords late in 2016 signaled the end of a decades-long struggle for territorial control between the government and the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) guerrillas across that country’s vast forested frontier. While the practice of conservation may have been incidental to FARC’s political and economic objectives at the forest frontier, the presence of armed conflict curbed the transformation of vast forests. In this paper we used hotspot detections from the Active Fire product from MODIS for the first trimester of the last two years (peak fire season in Colombia) to assess the effects of the 2017 FARC demobilization on forest conservation in real time. To estimate how fires in those protected areas translate into deforestation, we applied a spatial logistic regression model of deforestation as a function of distance to the nearest fire calibrated with 10 years of fire and deforestation data from the neighboring Amazonian lowlands. Results show a jump in deforestation within the PAs from 78 km2 estimated for 2017 to 132 km2 (a 69% increase) for 2018. Based on changes in fire frequency only, the probability of per-pixel deforestation within the parks increased by a mean of 50% and up to 800% higher at fire hotspots. The disproportionate increase in fires from one year to the next indicates vast transformations in the core of multiple PAs following demobilization. We argue that land tenure and development of infrastructure are driving mechanisms of forest loss. At the center of these mechanisms is the weak government capacity for law enforcement, environmental or otherwise, at the frontier. Our analyses show the potential for real-time deforestation monitoring, but research on-the-ground linked to remotely sensed data analysis are required to demonstrate how actors have responded to the power vacuum before any institutional response has coalesced.