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Loss of vegetation cover in a tropical island of the Amazon coastal zone (Maranhão Island, Brazil)

Rêgo, Joherbeth Carlos Lima, Soares-Gomes, Abílio, da Silva, Fabrício Sousa
Land use policy 2018 v.71 pp. 593-601
beaches, coasts, deforestation, ecosystems, environmental law, forests, humans, mining, pollution, recreation, remote sensing, sewage, urban areas, urban development, vegetation cover, Brazil
Coastal zones are valuable environments for humankind and have been used for urban settlements, recreation, harbours, mining and the gathering of natural resources. However, human occupation and usage of coastal ecosystems is threatening their diverse natural vegetation. The aim of this study was to analyse the changes in coastal vegetation cover of Maranhão Island in the face of urban development over the last 20 years through remote sensing imagery. Our results reveal a loss of vegetation for four of the five beaches studied. The most extensive loss occurred at the beaches of São Luis Municipality (accounting for 146ha), which is highly urbanized. Vegetation loss also occurred at sites protected under national environmental legislation, most of which was due to illegal human activity. The results were discussed in the light of the literature which pointed out to a deterioration in the urban environment coinciding with the loss of vegetation, mainly in terms of domestic sewage pollution and erosion. We present for the first time an estimate of the vegetation loss for Maranhão Island, which contribute to the knowledge of Atlantic Forest deforestation, specifically the restinga vegetation that is yet poorly studied.