New Publication “Forest loss in New England: A projection of recent trends”

A new paper published online by Jonathan Thompson and collaborators in the journal Plos One estimates forest loss in New England from 2010 to 2060.

New England has lost more than 350,000 ha of forest cover since 1985, marking a reversal of a two-hundred-year trend of forest expansion. We a cellular land-cover change model to project a continuation of recent trends (1990±2010) in forest loss across six New England states from 2010 to 2060. Recent trends were estimated using a continuous change detection algorithm applied to twenty years of Landsat images. We addressed three questions: (1) What would be the consequences of a continuation of the recent trends in terms of changes to New England’s forest cover mosaic? (2) What social and biophysical attributes are most strongly associated with recent trends in forest loss, and how do these vary geographically? (3) How sensitive are projections of forest loss to the reference periodÐi.e. how do projections based on the period spanning 1990-to-2000 differ from 2000-to-2010, or from the full period, 1990-to-2010? Over the full reference period, 8201 ha yr-1 and 468 ha yr-1 of forest were lost to low- and high-density development, respectively. Forest loss was concentrated in suburban areas, particularly near Boston. Of the variables considered, ‘distance to developed land’ was the strongest predictor of forest loss. The next most important predictor varied geographically: ‘distance to roads’ ranked second in the more developed regions in the south and ‘population density’ ranked second in the less developed north. The importance and geographical variation in predictor variables were relatively stable between reference periods. In contrast, there was 55% more forest loss during the 1990-to-2000 reference period compared to the 2000-to-2010 period, highlighting the importance of understanding the variation in reference periods when projecting land cover change. The projection of recent trends is an important baseline scenario with implications for the management of forest ecosystems and the services they provide.

Download full text of Thompson et al. 2017

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