Patterns Matter: Researchers Look Beyond the Numbers to See the True Impacts of Global Forest Loss

 

An aerial photo of land overlaid with colors indicating tree loss between 2000 and 2012Between 2000 and 2012, the world lost forest area and gained forest area. But the losses exceeded the gains, according to researchers who compared tree cover data from those years and estimated a global net loss of 1.71 million square kilometers of forest—an area about two and a half times the size of Texas. That’s only part of the story, though. “In addition to the direct loss of forest, there was a widespread shift of the remaining global forest to a more fragmented condition,” says Kurt Riitters, Eastern Threat Center research ecologist and team leader and the lead author of a study describing the phenomenon, recently published in the journal Landscape Ecology. “Forest area loss alone underestimates ecological risks from forest fragmentation. The spatial pattern of forest is important because the same area of forest can be arranged in different ways on the landscape with important consequences for ecosystem processes.”
Read more in CompassLive, and see additional articles from the European Commission Joint Research Centre and the Partnership for European Environmental Research.

Pictured: In this aerial photo of land near Hiram, Georgia, tree cover as of 2012 is shown in transparent green; tree cover loss from 2000 to 2012 is shown in transparent blue. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of National Agriculture Imagery Program.

 

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