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Distribution and Causes of Global Forest Fragmentation

Timothy G Wade, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Exposure Research Laboratory
Kurt Riitters, U.S. Forest Service
James D Wickham, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Exposure Research Laboratory
K. Bruce Jones, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Exposure Research Laboratory

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Abstract

Because human land uses tend to expand over time, forests that share a high proportion of their borders with anthropogenic uses are at higher risk of further degradation than forests that share a high proportion of their borders with non-forest, natural land cover (e.g., wetland). Using 1-km advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) satellite-based land cover, we present a method to separate forest fragmentation into natural and anthropogenic components, and report results for all inhabited continents summarized by World Wildlife Fund biomes. Globally, over half of the temperate broadleaf and mixed forest biome and nearly one quarter of the tropical rainforest biome have been fragmented or removed by humans, as opposed to only 4% of the boreal forest. Overall, Europe had the most human-caused fragmentation and South America the least. This method may allow for improved risk assessments and better targeting for protection and remediation by identifying areas with high amounts of human-caused fragmentation.

Key words

forest fragmentation, forest pattern, global, risk assessment, targeting
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087