Michigan State University, East Lansing, United States
Tropical forest conversion is a major driver of climate change and contributes as much as 25% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The main agent of deforestation and degradation over the last twenty years has been the conversion of closed canopy tropical forests to agriculture. Logging and forest management have not been as important as outright clearing of forests for agriculture, even while some early reports have painted a dire picture of a looming threat from commercial logging in the Amazon and some other areas. However, the role of commercial logging has not been resolved. First, the vast majority of research has been focused on selective logging and degradation in intact natural forests, usually considered as a form of one-off harvest or culling rather than a form of intensive forest management. This is a very different phenomenon than the establishment of industrial forests (IF) in natural forestland as well as on non-forest land, which are associated with the dynamics of management and rotation. Second, the studies done to date are geographically limited and thus may represent special cases not reflective of a general or widespread LCLUC phenomenon. As such we need to have a much better understanding of the extent and dynamics of industrial forestry and commercial forest logging – empirically and from the perspective of understanding drivers. This project addresses the important question of industrial forests in the tropics, which appear to be replacing natural forests. Preliminary evidence suggests that the area of industrial forest land use is increasing globally. More interesting, there appears to be significant geographic shifts in the location of new industrial tree systems, as industrial wood production that has historically been located in the temperate zone is now moving to tropical production centers and source regions. The project uses remote sensing data from Landsat 8, and develop new methods to detect and quantify industrial forest LCLUC patterns and dynamics. These methods will be prototyped in selected and important geographic regions with the goal of producing an operational monitoring method for this LCLUC phenomenon. Several specific research questions are framed to guide research using Landsat 8 data on patterns to quantitative address key questions related to processes and drivers. 1) In selected key tropical forest geographic regions is there observational evidence that new industrial forests are increasing in area; if so where is this occurring; what types of natural or managed ecosystem are they replacing? Are these systems encroaching on natural forests or are they being used to re-establish forest biomass on non-forest or degraded land? 2) What are the geometric and scale properties of industrial forests? Preliminary reports suggest that the sizes of industrial forests in the tropical forest zones are increasing; is this borne out by the observational evidence? Is there observational evidence to document short rotation (cf. pulp and paper) vs. long rotation (e.g. timber) industrial forests?