Traditionally Land Use Cover Change (LUCC) studies have focused on processes of negative land-cover change, primarily deforestation, partially because examples of positive land-cover change were not common. During the last two decades an outstanding tropical dry forest restoration process had taken place in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, which has given us a unique opportunity to study how and why tropical dry forest regrowth occurs. The purpose of this paper is to undertake a retrospective analysis of the social dynamics of forest deforestation and restoration in Guanacaste from 1960 to 2005. Hence we investigate how structural drivers shape patterns of forest-cover change and examine how the role that Costa Rica's conservation policies had played in promoting forest restoration. Our study combined analyses of socioeconomic data and satellite images of forest cover. We showed that forest regrowth observed in Guanacaste after the 1980s was the result of multiple socioeconomic factors. Our results indicate that the degree of incentive provided by conservation policies such as Payment for Environmental Services are not enough to ensure that Guanacaste's forest will be protected against the potentially negative impacts of future socioeconomic changes. The findings from our analysis can assist decision-makers and managers in other regions to understand how social, economic and political dynamics impact the effectiveness of forest conservation efforts.
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