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      Determination of tropical deforestation rates and related carbon losses from 1990 to 2010


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          We estimate changes in forest cover (deforestation and forest regrowth) in the tropics for the two last decades (1990–2000 and 2000–2010) based on a sample of 4000 units of 10 ×10 km size. Forest cover is interpreted from satellite imagery at 30 × 30 m resolution. Forest cover changes are then combined with pan-tropical biomass maps to estimate carbon losses. We show that there was a gross loss of tropical forests of 8.0 million ha yr −1 in the 1990s and 7.6 million ha yr −1 in the 2000s (0.49% annual rate), with no statistically significant difference. Humid forests account for 64% of the total forest cover in 2010 and 54% of the net forest loss during second study decade. Losses of forest cover and Other Wooded Land (OWL) cover result in estimates of carbon losses which are similar for 1990s and 2000s at 887 MtC yr −1 (range: 646–1238) and 880 MtC yr −1 (range: 602–1237) respectively, with humid regions contributing two-thirds. The estimates of forest area changes have small statistical standard errors due to large sample size. We also reduce uncertainties of previous estimates of carbon losses and removals. Our estimates of forest area change are significantly lower as compared to national survey data. We reconcile recent low estimates of carbon emissions from tropical deforestation for early 2000s and show that carbon loss rates did not change between the two last decades. Carbon losses from deforestation represent circa 10% of Carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production during the last decade (2000–2010). Our estimates of annual removals of carbon from forest regrowth at 115 MtC yr −1 (range: 61–168) and 97 MtC yr −1 (53–141) for the 1990s and 2000s respectively are five to fifteen times lower than earlier published estimates.

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          Most cited references 48

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          Quantification of global gross forest cover loss.

          A globally consistent methodology using satellite imagery was implemented to quantify gross forest cover loss (GFCL) from 2000 to 2005 and to compare GFCL among biomes, continents, and countries. GFCL is defined as the area of forest cover removed because of any disturbance, including both natural and human-induced causes. GFCL was estimated to be 1,011,000 km(2) from 2000 to 2005, representing 3.1% (0.6% per year) of the year 2000 estimated total forest area of 32,688,000 km(2). The boreal biome experienced the largest area of GFCL, followed by the humid tropical, dry tropical, and temperate biomes. GFCL expressed as the proportion of year 2000 forest cover was highest in the boreal biome and lowest in the humid tropics. Among continents, North America had the largest total area and largest proportion of year 2000 GFCL. At national scales, Brazil experienced the largest area of GFCL over the study period, 165,000 km(2), followed by Canada at 160,000 km(2). Of the countries with >1,000,000 km(2) of forest cover, the United States exhibited the greatest proportional GFCL and the Democratic Republic of Congo the least. Our results illustrate a pervasive global GFCL dynamic. However, GFCL represents only one component of net change, and the processes driving GFCL and rates of recovery from GFCL differ regionally. For example, the majority of estimated GFCL for the boreal biome is due to a naturally induced fire dynamic. To fully characterize global forest change dynamics, remote sensing efforts must extend beyond estimating GFCL to identify proximate causes of forest cover loss and to estimate recovery rates from GFCL.
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            Baseline map of carbon emissions from deforestation in tropical regions.

            Policies to reduce emissions from deforestation would benefit from clearly derived, spatially explicit, statistically bounded estimates of carbon emissions. Existing efforts derive carbon impacts of land-use change using broad assumptions, unreliable data, or both. We improve on this approach using satellite observations of gross forest cover loss and a map of forest carbon stocks to estimate gross carbon emissions across tropical regions between 2000 and 2005 as 0.81 petagram of carbon per year, with a 90% prediction interval of 0.57 to 1.22 petagrams of carbon per year. This estimate is 25 to 50% of recently published estimates. By systematically matching areas of forest loss with their carbon stocks before clearing, these results serve as a more accurate benchmark for monitoring global progress on reducing emissions from deforestation.
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              Difficulties in tracking the long-term global trend in tropical forest area.

               Alan Grainger (2008)
              The long-term trend in tropical forest area receives less scrutiny than the tropical deforestation rate. We show that constructing a reliable trend is difficult and evidence for decline is unclear, within the limits of errors involved in making global estimates. A time series for all tropical forest area, using data from Forest Resources Assessments (FRAs) of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, is dominated by three successively corrected declining trends. Inconsistencies between these trends raise questions about their reliability, especially because differences seem to result as much from errors as from changes in statistical design and use of new data. A second time series for tropical moist forest area shows no apparent decline. The latter may be masked by the errors involved, but a "forest return" effect may also be operating, in which forest regeneration in some areas offsets deforestation (but not biodiversity loss) elsewhere. A better monitoring program is needed to give a more reliable trend. Scientists who use FRA data should check how the accuracy of their findings depends on errors in the data.

                Author and article information

                Glob Chang Biol
                Glob Chang Biol
                Global Change Biology
                BlackWell Publishing Ltd (Oxford, UK )
                August 2014
                30 May 2014
                : 20
                : 8
                : 2540-2554
                [1 ]Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission TP 440, Ispra, VA, 21027, Italy
                [2 ]Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Rome, Italy
                [3 ]Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Engineering SpA Ispra, Italy
                [4 ]Arcadia SIT, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission Ispra, Italy
                [5 ]National Forest Centre, Forest Research Institute Zvolen, 96092, Slovak Republic
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Frédéric Achard, tel. +39 0332 78 5545, fax +39 0332 78 5230, e-mail: frederic.achard@ 123456jrc.ec.europa.eu
                © The Authors Global Change Biology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

                This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.

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