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How should land be used?

As part of an ambitious IDB-financed project to promote conservation and enhance economic development in Panamá's Darién province, project officials needed to conduct a baseline assessment of the land use trends in the region. After considering numerous options, they concluded that the most accurate way to do so would be to purchase multi-spectral Landsat satellite images of the area taken in 1980, 1987 and 1997, and then analyze them for evidence of change.

In the first image at left, which depicts the situation in 1980, areas that were already under some kind of agricultural use were color-coded yellowish green (other colors in the first image refer to different types of forest cover).

The second image combines 1997 satellite data with information on soil, rainfall and slope to determine the suitability of present land use patterns. Areas considered strongly over exploited are color-coded red, lightly over exploited are orange, and under utilized are blue. Program officials in Panama are now using this data to develop a land use plan that will preserve the area's unique ecosystems while permitting sustainable development.

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