Landscape dynamics from 1990--2010 and the human to apex predator (red-tailed hawk) relationship on La Gonave, Haiti

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Virginia Tech


The island of La Gonave, ~50 km northwest of Port-au-Prince, represents the subsistence Haitian lifestyle. Little is known about human--environment interactions on La Gonave. The first objective of this research was to investigate landscape dynamics through image classification, change detection, and landscape pattern analysis using Landsat 5 (TM) imagery from 1990--2010. Five land cover classes were considered: Agriculture, Forest/Dense Vegetation (DV), Shrub, Barren/Eroded, and Nonforested Wetlands. Overall image classification accuracy was 87%. The area percent change was -39.7, -22.7, 87.4, -7.0, 10.2%, for the respective classes. Landscape pattern analysis illustrated the encroachment of Shrub in core Forest/DV patches and the decline of Agricultural patch integrity. Agricultural abandonment, deforestation, and forest regrowth generated an increasingly fragmented landscape.

The second objective of this research was to better understand the survival of the red-tailed hawk (RTH) on La Gonave by exploring the human--RTH relationship. We implemented a survey (n = 121) in 10 rural villages on La Gonave regarding their perceptions and interactions with the RTH during May--June, 2012. During fieldwork we sighted seven RTHs and found one nest. Many respondents noted the aggressive behavior of RTHs during nesting, suggesting reproductive behavior on the island. Our results indicate that RTHs inhabiting this island were not persecuted, despite intense predation of domestic chickens. Aside from predation near homes, villagers do not interact with the hawk as it remains out of sight. The RTH currently has no known predators, but it remains in danger of island extirpation due to ecological degradation.



Tropical land cover change, La Gonave, Haiti, landscape pattern analysis, Landsat 5 (TM), red-tailed hawk, livestock predation, human--large carnivore relationship