One of the most important protected areas of Mexico where payment for environmental services has been introduced is the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) in the state of Michoacán. This paper presents a spatial and chronological portrait of land degradation in the Angangueo sector of the MBBR; land-use changes over about four decades are analysed by assessing data for the years 1971, 1994, 2009 and 2010. A significant landsliding episode occurred in February 2010, when several debris flows affected the area of the Reserve, causing 16 deaths, substantial damage to roads, electricity and the water supply system, and indirect consequences for crop production, cattle farming and tourism. Changes in land cover between 2009 and 2010 were assessed to determine the likely role of deforestation on landsliding as well as to estimate the significance of landslides in land-use change. The former was demonstrated because digital photo interpretation and field observations revealed that the debris flows began in deforested zones. The findings also indicated that 54·57 ha of forest were either degraded or destroyed as a consequence of landslides and winds.
In the Angangueo basin, the rate of land-cover change from 1971 to 1994 was 0·96 per cent, from 1994 to 2009 it had decreased to 0·91 per cent, but for the year 2010 had increased to 0·97 per cent, mainly as a result of the landsliding episode of February 2010. The MBBR has experienced a relatively significant amount of land-cover change over the past four decades, although deforestation has not increased as severely as in other areas of Mexico. This suggests that payments for environmental services can reduce the human-induced deforestation; however, mitigation of the impact caused by hazards in forest areas should be sought from a perspective that includes disaster theory and geodiversity. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.