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Continuity and change: Spatiotemporal land use dynamics on Bellona Island, Solomon Islands

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Traditional agricultural land use systems in the humid tropics of the Southwest Pacific are, as elsewhere, affected by globalization processes. This paper analyzes the directions of change in the land use system of Bellona, a small outer island in the Solomon Islands. We focus on the human–environmental interaction that shapes land use patterns and practices in the context of theoretical lines of thought concerning intensification of agricultural systems in the tropics. Aerial photography from 1966 and satellite imagery from 2006 in conjunction with studies from the 1960s and a contemporary household survey reveal only minor changes in the agricultural system. Land use and land cover dynamics are related to agricultural strategies, demographic factors, institutional actors as well as biophysical drivers or constraints. Local agricultural production still contributes significantly to local subsistence but imported food has also become a major food source. Hence, land use has become partially disconnected from the local population pressure and therefore remains relatively stable while the larger livelihood portfolio has undergone significant diversification. At present, the agricultural system is a supplement to a range of strategies supporting the increasing number of people on the island. This explains why land use patterns continue relatively unchanged while livelihood and food supply strategies have changed.

Keywords: Solomon Islands; agricultural strategies; land use; livelihood; population; shifting cultivation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography and Geology, Geocenter Copenhagen, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Publication date: 2010-03-01

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