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Spatially Integrated Social Science: Chapter 2
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Inferring the Behavior of Households from Remotely Sensed Changes in Land Cover:
Current Methods and Future Directions

Bruce Boucek and Emilio F. Moran

Research on land use and land cover change relating to landscape ecology, deforestation, desertification, and, more recently, links between climate change and health, frequently focuses on meso- and macro-scales where the spatial resolution is global, regional, or macro-regional. In this paper authors review efforts to empirically and spatially examine processes taking place at micro-scale (e.g., the household), discuss methods used under different conditions of settlement pattern, contributions to theory-building offered by these methods, and methodological advances in examining households, families, and other small social units. The micro-scale analyses reviewed here include three different settings that pose contrasting problems to the use of spatially-explicit methods: 1) urban areas; 2) rural areas wherein people live in villages and commute to their landholdings; and 3) rural areas wherein people reside on the land they use. The most detailed discussion concerns the conceptual, methodological, and empirical findings of our research group in the Brazilian Amazon. In this work we have linked demographic, social survey research, Landsat time series satellite data, and aerial photography, to construct a temporally and spatially fine-grained analysis of changes in land cover at both landscape and individual property scales so as to achieve inferences about the behavior of households. We conclude with a discussion of the distinct challenges and problems posed by conducting household scale land use and land cover change research in various settings. Methodological, technological, and theoretical advances are also presented that will enhance our ability to engage in such analyses, as well as broaden the range of theories and questions that are possible to address.


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