Landscape Pattern Analysis Reveals Global Loss of Interior Forest

An aerial photo shows tree cover and loss between 2000 and 2012During an analysis of changing landscape patterns between 2000 and 2012, an Eastern Threat Center researcher and partners estimated a recent global net loss of 1.71 million square kilometers of forest. In addition to the direct loss of forestland, researchers discovered a global loss of 3.76 million square hectares of interior forest, meaning that remaining forests have shifted to a more fragmented condition and are at risk for loss of critical habitat and ecological functions. All forest biomes experienced a net loss of interior forest area during the study period. Across the globe, temperate coniferous forests experienced the largest percentage of loss, tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests lost the most area of interior forest, and boreal forests and taiga lost interior forest at the highest rate. Researchers note that the reasons for losses, and therefore the consequences, depend on local circumstances. Human activities and land use changes that result in permanent deforestation have a much greater impact than temporary deforestation from natural disturbances, such as a fire. Monitoring remains an important tool to provide early warnings of forests at risk of reaching a tipping point, and the results of this study can inform and focus conservation and management decisions in areas of concern.

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. Photo courtesy of National Agriculture Imagery Program. Click to enlarge.


Riitters, Kurt; Wickham, James; Costanza, Jennifer K.; Vogt, Peter. 2016. A global evaluation of forest interior area dynamics using tree cover data from 2000 to 2012. Landscape Ecology 31:137-148.

External Partners/Collaborators:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; North Carolina State University; European Commission Joint Research Centre

Contact: Kurt Riitters

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