Modeling the Vulnerability of Mangrove Forests to Conversion to Aquaculture in Myanmar

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Geography



First Advisor

J. Ronald Eastman

Second Advisor

Karen Frey

Third Advisor

John Rogan


Mangroves are salt-tolerant trees that grow in intertidal zones and house large amounts of biodiversity, store a substantial amount of carbon, protect coasts from erosion, and provide fuel and timber wood to local communities. Despite their ecological, societal, and economic importance, mangrove forests are being removed and degraded at an alarming rate. A large contributing factor to mangrove loss, especially in Southeast Asia, is conversion of land to aquaculture, particularly shrimp farming. This loss of mangrove is a major problem in many tropical countries all over the world but the fastest rate of loss is in many coastal countries in Southeast Asia. With Myanmar's recent change in government structure, environmental policies are changing and natural resources are more exposed to foreign investment for exploitation. This research seeks to help with conservation efforts by developing a GIS/Remote Sensing protocol for modeling the vulnerability of mangroves in Myanmar to conversion to aquaculture. Part of this vulnerability mapping included creating a variable distinguishing primary from secondary mangrove forests. This required an exploration of methods to indicate this variable which resulted in using a multiplication of the Tasseled Cap Greenness and Wetness images. Two methods (a Multi-Criteria Evaluation and a Dempster-Shafer Belief model) for mapping vulnerability were experimented with and compared to yield the best result. The Dempster-Shafer model proved to be a logically consistent representation of vulnerability based on the variables used.