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Estimated rates of deforestation in two boreal landscapes in central Saskatchewan, Canada

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No national long-term monitoring system exists to estimate temporal changes in the area of forests within Canada. Changes in wooded area, defined as land at least 35% covered by trees or shrubs with a minimum height of 2 m, were estimated for two study areas in central Saskatchewan, Canada. Sequential editions of 1 : 50 000 topographic maps were digitized and analyzed with a geographic information system to quantify changes in wooded area over approximately three decades for the Waskesiu Hills landscape (53°45' N, 106°15' W) and the Red Deer River landscape (52°45' N, 103°00' W). Both study areas were located within the Boreal Plain Ecozone, which was predominantly boreal forest prior to the past century of agricultural land clearing. In the 4570–km2 Waskesiu Hills landscape, wooded area decreased by 164 km2 between 1963 and 1990. In the 4692–km2 Red Deer River landscape, wooded area decreased by 371 km2 in between 1957 and 1990. Estimated mean annual rates of change in wooded area were –0.19%·year–1 and –0.43%·year–1 for the former and latter landscapes, respectively. Losses of wooded area were not proportional across three land-use classes. Rates of change for wooded area were small in parks (0.10%·year–1 and–1.02%·year–1) and commercial forests (0.10%·year–1 and 0.22%·year–1), and larger in predominantly agricultural zones (–1.27%·year–1 and –1.21%·year–1 for the Waskesiu Hills landscape and Red Deer River landscape, respectively). These measured declines in wooded area do not account for losses due to roads, transmission lines, buildings, and other features not represented on topographic maps in an area-proportional manner, but this error is estimated to be very small. The total length of roads increased by 95 km (0.27%·year–1 between 1963 and 1990) in the Waskesiu Hills landscape and by 507 km (0.74%·year–1 between 1957 and 1990) in the Red Deer River landscape. Expanding infrastructure networks were contrasted by negative rates of change for human population (–0.89%·year–1 between 1961 and 1991 for the Waskesiu Hills region and –1.19%·year–1 between 1956 and 1991 for the Red Deer River region). Within the two study areas, wooded lands that are unprotected by legislation remain vulnerable to future deforestation. Continued clearing of extant forests could jeopardize potential carbon gains from afforestation and reforestation initiatives presently being considered for marginal agricultural lands in western Canada.

Il n'y a pas de système national de suivi à long terme pour estimer les variations temporelles dans la superficie des forêts au Canada. Les variations dans la superficie boisée, définie comme un territoire couvert à au moins 35% par des arbres ou des arbustes d'une hauteur minimale de 2 m, ont été estimées dans deux aires d'étude situées dans le centre de la Saskatchewan, au Canada. Des éditions séquentielles de cartes topographiques à l'échelle de 1 : 50 000 ont été numérisées et analysées à l'aide d'un système d'information géographique pour quantifier les changements dans la superficie boisée au cours d'environ trois décades dans les paysages de Waskesiu Hills (53° 45' N, 106° 15' O) et de Red Deer River (52° 45' N, 103° 00' O). Les deux zones d'étude étaient localisées dans l'écozone de la plaine boréale qui était surtout couverte de forêt boréale avant le défrichage des terres pour l'agriculture au cours du siècle dernier. Dans le paysage de Waskesiu Hills couvrant 4570 km2, la superficie boisée a diminué de 164 km2 entre 1963 et 1990. Dans le paysage de Red Deer River couvrant 4692 km2, la superficie boisée a diminué de 371 km2 entre 1957 et 1990. Les taux moyens annuels estimés de changement dans la superficie boisée étaient respectivement de –0,19%·an–1 et –0,43%·an–1 dans le premier et le dernier cas. Les pertes de superficie boisée ne sont pas proportionnelles dans les trois classes d'utilisation des terres. Les taux de changement dans la superficie boisée sont faibles dans les parcs (0,10%·an–1 et –0,02%·an–1) et les forêts commerciales (0,10%·an–1 et 0,22%·an–1

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2002

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