Research ArticleENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

Long-term (1990–2019) monitoring of forest cover changes in the humid tropics

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Science Advances  05 Mar 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 10, eabe1603
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe1603

Abstract

Accurate characterization of tropical moist forest changes is needed to support conservation policies and to quantify their contribution to global carbon fluxes more effectively. We document, at pantropical scale, the extent and changes (degradation, deforestation, and recovery) of these forests over the past three decades. We estimate that 17% of tropical moist forests have disappeared since 1990 with a remaining area of 1071 million hectares in 2019, from which 10% are degraded. Our study underlines the importance of the degradation process in these ecosystems, in particular, as a precursor of deforestation, and in the recent increase in tropical moist forest disturbances (natural and anthropogenic degradation or deforestation). Without a reduction of the present disturbance rates, undisturbed forests will disappear entirely in large tropical humid regions by 2050. Our study suggests that reinforcing actions are needed to prevent the initial degradation that leads to forest clearance in 45% of the cases.

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