The relation between human population growth and land use change is much debated. Here we present a case study from Papua New Guinea where the population has increased from 2.3 million in 1975 to 5.2 million in 2000. Since 85% of the population relies on subsistence agriculture, population growth affects agricultural land use. We assessed land use change in the Morobe province (33,933 km2) using topographic maps of 1975 and Landsat TM images of 1990 and 2000. Between 1975 and 2000, agricultural land use increased by 58% and population grew by 99%. Most new agricultural land was taken from primary forest and the forest area decreased from 9.8 ha person¿1 in 1975 to 4.4 ha person¿1 in 2000. Total population change and total land use change were strongly correlated. Most of the agricultural land use change occurred on Inceptisols in areas with high rainfall (>2500 mm year¿1) on moderate to very steep slopes (10¿56%). Agricultural land use changes in logged-over areas were in the vicinity of populated places (villages), and in close proximity to road access. There was considerable variation between the districts but districts with higher population growth also had larger increases in agricultural areas. It is concluded that in the absence of improved farming systems the current trend of increased agriculture with rapid population growth is likely to continue.
- cover change
- use patterns