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High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change

Science  15 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6160, pp. 850-853
DOI: 10.1126/science.1244693

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Forests in Flux

Forests worldwide are in a state of flux, with accelerating losses in some regions and gains in others. Hansen et al. (p. 850) examined global Landsat data at a 30-meter spatial resolution to characterize forest extent, loss, and gain from 2000 to 2012. Globally, 2.3 million square kilometers of forest were lost during the 12-year study period and 0.8 million square kilometers of new forest were gained. The tropics exhibited both the greatest losses and the greatest gains (through regrowth and plantation), with losses outstripping gains.

Abstract

Quantification of global forest change has been lacking despite the recognized importance of forest ecosystem services. In this study, Earth observation satellite data were used to map global forest loss (2.3 million square kilometers) and gain (0.8 million square kilometers) from 2000 to 2012 at a spatial resolution of 30 meters. The tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2101 square kilometers per year. Brazil’s well-documented reduction in deforestation was offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, and elsewhere. Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms. These results depict a globally consistent and locally relevant record of forest change.

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