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      Socio-economic factors and management regimes as drivers of tree cover change in Nepal

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          Despite the local and global importance of forests, deforestation is driven by various socio-economic and biophysical factors continues in many countries. In Nepal, in response to massive deforestation, the community forestry program has been implemented to reduce deforestation and support livelihoods. After four decades of its inception, the effectiveness of this program on forest cover change remains mostly unknown. This study analyses the spatial and temporal patterns of tree cover change along with a few socio-economic drivers of tree cover change to examine the effectiveness of the community forestry program for conserving forests or in reducing deforestation. We also investigate the socio-economic factors and policy responses as manifested through the community forestry program responsible for the tree cover change at the district level. The total tree cover area in the year 2000 in Nepal was ∼4,746,000 hectares, and our analysis reveals that between 2001 and 2016, Nepal has lost ∼46,000 ha and gained ∼12,200 ha of areas covered by trees with a substantial spatial and temporal variations. After accounting socio-economic drivers of forest cover change, our analysis showed that districts with the larger number of community forests had a minimum loss in tree cover, while districts with the higher proportion of vegetation covered by community forests had a maximum gain in tree cover. This indicates a positive contribution of the community forestry program to reducing deforestation and increasing tree cover.

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          Quantification of global forest change has been lacking despite the recognized importance of forest ecosystem services. In this study, Earth observation satellite data were used to map global forest loss (2.3 million square kilometers) and gain (0.8 million square kilometers) from 2000 to 2012 at a spatial resolution of 30 meters. The tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2101 square kilometers per year. Brazil's well-documented reduction in deforestation was offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, and elsewhere. Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms. These results depict a globally consistent and locally relevant record of forest change.
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              A large and persistent carbon sink in the world's forests.

              The terrestrial carbon sink has been large in recent decades, but its size and location remain uncertain. Using forest inventory data and long-term ecosystem carbon studies, we estimate a total forest sink of 2.4 ± 0.4 petagrams of carbon per year (Pg C year(-1)) globally for 1990 to 2007. We also estimate a source of 1.3 ± 0.7 Pg C year(-1) from tropical land-use change, consisting of a gross tropical deforestation emission of 2.9 ± 0.5 Pg C year(-1) partially compensated by a carbon sink in tropical forest regrowth of 1.6 ± 0.5 Pg C year(-1). Together, the fluxes comprise a net global forest sink of 1.1 ± 0.8 Pg C year(-1), with tropical estimates having the largest uncertainties. Our total forest sink estimate is equivalent in magnitude to the terrestrial sink deduced from fossil fuel emissions and land-use change sources minus ocean and atmospheric sinks.

                Author and article information

                PeerJ Inc. (San Francisco, USA )
                29 May 2018
                : 6
                [1 ]Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Boston , Boston, MA, United States of America
                [2 ]Institute for Agriculture and the Environment, University of Southern Queensland , Toowoomba, QLD, Australia
                [3 ]Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) , Bangalore, India
                ©2018 Shrestha et al.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

                Funded by: Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation
                Funded by: Nancy Goranson Endowment Fund
                Funded by: Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant from the University of Massachusetts Boston
                This research is funded by Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation, Nancy Goranson Endowment Fund, and Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant from the University of Massachusetts Boston. There was no additional external funding received for this study. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Conservation Biology
                Natural Resource Management


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