How do protected landscapes associated with high biodiversity and population levels change?
ABSTRACT: Most protected areas (PA) try to limit logging of forests by means of restrictions on access and use, especially in areas where local communities coexist with the forests and depend on resources derived from PAs. In such contexts, achieving full or effective protection of the forests is almost impossible. This fact has led to researching beyond PAs boundaries in order to examine large surrounding landscapes with multiple forms of properties and restriction on forests use. The present study assessed the change in forest cover and fragmentation between 1990 and 2014, in addition to the drivers that explain such changes in a landscape with the presence of PAs and high-density population belonging to the Chocó-Darien biodiversity hotspot. Results indicated differences in the extent and spatial patterns of change in forest cover of PAs and their surrounding landscapes. Two PAs exhibited a tendency to increase fragmentation and lose their forests in comparison with the stable protection of the forests in other PAs during this period. However, the greatest change in forest cover and fragmentation was observed in the surrounding landscapes, where the best connection to markets and transport networks were the dominating deforestation drivers. Our findings corroborated that the PAs were a shield against the deforestation of the tropical Andean forest, especially in landscapes with high-density population. However, the fragmentation of the forest cannot be avoided around the PAs limits. It is expected that, if this tendency continues in the future, the biodiversity in the Chocó-Darien hotspot will be seriously affected.
Project description:The tropical rain forests of northwest South America fall within the Chocó-Darien Global Ecoregion (CGE). The CGE is one of 25 global biodiversity hotspots prioritized for conservation due to its high biodiversity and endemism as well as threats due to deforestation. The analysis of land-use and land-cover (LULC) change within the CGE using remotely sensed imagery is challenging because this area is considered to be one of the rainiest places on the planet (hence high frequency of cloud cover). Furthermore, the availability of high-resolution remotely sensed data is low for developing countries before 2015. Using the Random Forest ensemble learning classification tree system, we developed annual LULC maps in the CGE from 2002 to 2015 using a time series of cloud-free MODIS vegetation index products. The MODIS imagery was processed through a Gaussian weighted filter to further correct for cloud pollution and matched to visual interpretations of land cover and land use from available high spatial resolution imagery (WorldView-2, Quick Bird, Ikonos and GeoEye-1). Validation of LULC maps resulted in a Kappa of 0.87 (Sd = 0.008). We detected a gradual replacement of forested areas with agriculture (mainly grassland planted to support livestock grazing), and secondary vegetation (agriculture reverting to forest) across the CGE. Forest loss was higher between 2010-2015 when compared to 2002-2010. LULC change trends, deforestation drivers, and reforestation transitions varied according to administrative organization (countries: Panamanian CGE, Colombian CGE, and Ecuadorian CGE).
Project description:Despite the overall trend of worldwide deforestation over recent decades, reforestation has also been found and is expected in developing countries undergoing fast urbanization and agriculture abandonment. The consequences of reforestation on landscape patterns are seldom addressed in the literature, despite their importance in evaluating biodiversity and ecosystem functions. By analyzing long-term land cover changes in Puerto Rico, a rapidly reforested (6 to 42% during 1940-2000) and urbanized tropical island, we detected significantly different patterns of fragmentation and underlying mechanisms among forests, urban areas, and wetlands. Forest fragmentation is often associated with deforestation. However, we also found significant fragmentation during reforestation. Urban sprawl and suburb development have a dominant impact on forest fragmentation. Reforestation mostly occurs along forest edges, while significant deforestation occurs in forest interiors. The deforestation process has a much stronger impact on forest fragmentation than the reforestation process due to their different spatial configurations. In contrast, despite the strong interference of coastal urbanization, wetland aggregation has occurred due to the effective implementation of laws/regulations for wetland protection. The peak forest fragmentation shifted toward rural areas, indicating progressively more fragmentation in forest interiors. This shift is synchronous with the accelerated urban sprawl as indicated by the accelerated shift of the peak fragmentation index of urban cover toward rural areas, i.e., 1.37% yr-1 in 1977-1991 versus 2.17% yr-1 in 1991-2000. Based on the expected global urbanization and the regional forest transition from deforested to reforested, the fragmented forests and aggregated wetlands in this study highlight possible forest fragmentation processes during reforestation in an assessment of biodiversity and functions and suggest effective laws/regulations in land planning to reduce future fragmentation.
Project description:Deforestation and fragmentation are major components of global change; both are contributing to the rapid loss of tropical forest area with important implications for ecosystem functioning and biodiversity conservation. The forests of South Ecuador are a biological 'hotspot' due to their high diversity and endemism levels. We examined the deforestation and fragmentation patterns in this area of high conservation value using aerial photographs and Aster satellite scenes. The registered annual deforestation rates of 0.75% (1976-1989) and 2.86% (1989-2008) for two consecutive survey periods, the decreasing mean patch size and the increasing isolation of the forest fragments show that the area is under severe threat. Approximately 46% of South Ecuador's original forest cover had been converted by 2008 into pastures and other anthropogenic land cover types. We found that deforestation is more intense at lower elevations (premontane evergreen forest and shrubland) and that the deforestation front currently moves in upslope direction. Improved awareness of the spatial extent, dynamics and patterns of deforestation and forest fragmentation is urgently needed in biologically diverse areas like South Ecuador.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Wet tropical forests of Chocó, along the Pacific Coast of Colombia, are known for their high plant diversity and endemic species. With increasing pressure of degradation and deforestation, these forests have been prioritized for conservation and carbon offset through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanisms. We provide the first regional assessment of forest structure and aboveground biomass using measurements from a combination of ground tree inventories and airborne Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar). More than 80,000 ha of lidar samples were collected based on a stratified random sampling to provide a regionally unbiased quantification of forest structure of Chocó across gradients of vegetation structure, disturbance and elevation. We developed a model to convert measurements of vertical structure of forests into aboveground biomass (AGB) for terra firme, wetlands, and mangrove forests. We used the Random Forest machine learning model and a formal uncertainty analysis to map forest height and AGB at 1-ha spatial resolution for the entire pacific coastal region using spaceborne data, extending from the coast to higher elevation of Andean forests. RESULTS:Upland Chocó forests have a mean canopy height of 21.8 m and AGB of 233.0 Mg/ha, while wetland forests are characterized by a lower height and AGB (13.5 m and 117.5 Mg/a). Mangroves have a lower mean height than upland forests (16.5 m), but have a similar AGB as upland forests (229.9 Mg/ha) due to their high wood density. Within the terra firme forest class, intact forests have the highest AGB (244.3 ± 34.8 Mg/ha) followed by degraded and secondary forests with 212.57 ± 62.40 Mg/ha of biomass. Forest degradation varies in biomass loss from small-scale selective logging and firewood harvesting to large-scale tree removals for gold mining, settlements, and illegal logging. Our findings suggest that the forest degradation has already caused the loss of more than 115 million tons of dry biomass, or 58 million tons of carbon. CONCLUSIONS:Our assessment of carbon stocks and forest degradation can be used as a reference for reporting on the state of the Chocó forests to REDD+ projects and to encourage restoration efforts through conservation and climate mitigation policies.
Project description:Understanding the multiple ways people value forests is important, as individual values regarding nature have been shown to partly determine willingness to participate in conservation initiatives. As individual values are influenced by past experiences, the way people value forests may be related to the ecosystem services they use and receive. We here aim to investigate if people value forests because of material and non-material benefits forest provide (material and non-material values), and if these values are defined by previous experiences associated with using forest resources and having frequent contact with forests. By interviewing 363 residents across 20 landscapes varying in forest cover in a post-frontier region in Amazonia, we evaluated: (1) if the use of forest resources-especially bushmeat, important for sustenance and cash income in virtually all tropical forests-is associated with attributing higher material value to forests; (2) whether the contact with forest (estimated by local forest cover and visits to forests) is associated with attributing higher non-material value to forests. As expected, respondents from households where hunting occurs and bushmeat consumption is more frequent attributed higher material value to forests, and those living in more deforested landscapes and that visited forests less often attributed lower non-material value to forests. The importance of bushmeat in shaping the way people value forests suggests that encouraging the sustainable use of this product will encourage forest conservation. Results also point to a potential dangerous reinforcing cycle: low forest cover and the loss of contact with forests may erode forest values and facilitate further deforestation. Engaging rural communities in forest conservation initiatives is challenging yet urgent in degraded landscapes, although harnessing appreciation for bushmeat could offer a starting point.
Project description:Deforestation in the tropics is not only responsible for direct carbon emissions but also extends the forest edge wherein trees suffer increased mortality. Here we combine high-resolution (30?m) satellite maps of forest cover with estimates of the edge effect and show that 19% of the remaining area of tropical forests lies within 100?m of a forest edge. The tropics house around 50 million forest fragments and the length of the world's tropical forest edges sums to nearly 50 million km. Edge effects in tropical forests have caused an additional 10.3?Gt (2.1-14.4?Gt) of carbon emissions, which translates into 0.34?Gt per year and represents 31% of the currently estimated annual carbon releases due to tropical deforestation. Fragmentation substantially augments carbon emissions from tropical forests and must be taken into account when analysing the role of vegetation in the global carbon cycle.
Project description:The conservation efficiency of Protected Areas (PA) is influenced by the health and characteristics of the surrounding landscape matrix. Fragmentation of adjacent lands interrupts ecological flows within PAs and will decrease the ability of species to shift their distribution as climate changes. For five periods across the 21(st) century, we assessed changes to the extent of primary land, secondary land, pasture and crop land projected to occur within 50 km buffers surrounding IUCN-designated PAs. Four scenarios of land-use were obtained from the Land-Use Harmonization Project, developed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The scenarios project the continued decline of primary lands within buffers surrounding PAs. Substantial losses are projected to occur across buffer regions in the tropical forest biomes of Indo-Malayan and the Temperate Broadleaf forests of the Nearctic. A number of buffer regions are projected to have negligible primary land remaining by 2100, including those in the Afrotropic's Tropical/Subtropical Grassland/Savanna/Shrubland. From 2010-2050, secondary land is projected to increase within most buffer regions, although, as with pasture and crops within tropical and temperate forests, projections from the four land-use scenarios may diverge substantially in magnitude and direction of change. These scenarios demonstrate a range of alternate futures, and show that although effective mitigation strategies may reduce pressure on land surrounding PAs, these areas will contain an increasingly heterogeneous matrix of primary and human-modified landscapes. Successful management of buffer regions will be imperative to ensure effectiveness of PAs and to facilitate climate-induced shifts in species ranges.
Project description:The Brazilian Amazon in the past decades has been suffering severe landscape alteration, mainly due to anthropogenic activities, such as road building and land clearing for agriculture. Using a high-resolution time series of land cover maps (classified as mature forest, non-forest, secondary forest) spanning from 1984 through 2011, and four uncorrelated fragmentation metrics (edge density, clumpiness index, area-weighted mean patch size and shape index), we examined the temporal and spatial dynamics of forest fragmentation in three study areas across the Brazilian Amazon (Manaus, Santarém and Machadinho d'Oeste), inside and outside conservation units. Moreover, we compared the impacts on the landscape of: (1) different land uses (e.g. cattle ranching, crop production), (2) occupation processes (spontaneous vs. planned settlements) and (3) implementation of conservation units. By 2010/2011, municipalities located along the Arc of Deforestation had more than 55% of the remaining mature forest strictly confined to conservation units. Further, the planned settlement showed a higher rate of forest loss, a more persistent increase in deforested areas and a higher relative incidence of deforestation inside conservation units. Distinct agricultural activities did not lead to significantly different landscape structures; the accessibility of the municipality showed greater influence in the degree of degradation of the landscapes. Even with a high proportion of the landscapes covered by conservation units, which showed a strong inhibitory effect on forest fragmentation, we show that dynamic agriculturally driven economic activities, in municipalities with extensive road development, led to more regularly shaped, heavily fragmented landscapes, with higher densities of forest edge.
Project description:Deforestation and forest degradation around the world endanger the functioning of ecosystems, climate stability, and conservation of biodiversity. We assessed the spatial and temporal dynamics of forest cover in Myanmar's Hkakabo Razi Landscape (HRL) to determine its integrity based on forest change and fragmentation patterns from 1989 to 2016. Over 80% of the HRL was covered by natural areas, from which forest was the most prevalent (around 60%). Between 1989 and 2016, forest cover declined at an annual rate of 0.225%. Forest degradation occurred mainly around the larger plains of Putao and Naung Mung, areas with relatively high human activity. Although the rate of forest interior loss was approximately 2 to 3 times larger than the rate of total forest loss, forest interior was prevalent with little fragmentation. Physical and environmental variables were the main predictors of either remaining in the current land-cover class or transitioning to another class, although remaining in the current land cover was more likely than land conversion. The forests of the HRL have experienced low human impact and still constitute large tracts of contiguous forest interior. To ensure the protection of these large tracts of forest, sustainable forest policies and management should be implemented.
Project description:Fragmentation is a major driver of ecosystem degradation, reducing the capacity of habitats to provide many important ecosystem services. Mangrove ecosystem services, such as erosion prevention, shoreline protection and mitigation of climate change (through carbon sequestration), depend on the size and arrangement of forest patches, but we know little about broad-scale patterns of mangrove forest fragmentation. Here we conduct a multi-scale analysis using global estimates of mangrove density and regional drivers of mangrove deforestation to map relationships between habitat loss and fragmentation. Mangrove fragmentation was ubiquitous; however, there are geographic disparities between mangrove loss and fragmentation; some regions, like Cambodia and the southern Caribbean, had relatively little loss, but their forests have been extensively fragmented. In Southeast Asia, a global hotspot of mangrove loss, the conversion of forests to aquaculture and rice plantations were the biggest drivers of loss (>50%) and fragmentation. Surprisingly, conversion of forests to oil palm plantations, responsible for >15% of all deforestation in Southeast Asia, was only weakly correlated with mangrove fragmentation. Thus, the management of different deforestation drivers may increase or decrease fragmentation. Our findings suggest that large scale monitoring of mangrove forests should also consider fragmentation. This work highlights that regional priorities for conservation based on forest loss rates can overlook fragmentation and associated loss of ecosystem functionality.