Are Forest Disturbance Rates and Composition Influenced by Changing Ownerships, Conservation Easements, and Land Certification?

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Abstract:

This research examines the effect of recent landownership changes and new management stewardship mechanisms (e.g., forest certification and working forest conservation easements) on disturbance rates in Maine forests. We quantify forest disturbance rates between 2000 and 2007 and forest cover type composition in 2007, as detected by Landsat Thematic Mapper satellite imagery, and relate these to possible influencing factors including landowner type, ownership stability, forest certification, and conservation easements. The cover type map was evaluated for agreement with US Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis ground plot data and the change map was evaluated using visual interpretation of random sample locations on multiple years of Landsat data and aerial photos. Between 2000 and 2007, 1.6 million ha of commercial forestland changed ownership. Investment landowner types, timber investment management organizations and real estate investment trusts, were found to have the highest disturbance rates, significantly higher than those for public and conservation forest landowner groups. Forestlands that changed owners had disturbance rates similar to those with stable landowners. Disturbance rates on certified and easement forestlands, compared with those on noncertified and noneasement land, indicated no significant differences at the statewide scale. Public and conservation forestlands were found to have a higher proportion of coniferous forest and a lower component of deciduous forest compared with privately owned forests in the state.

Keywords: Landsat; change detection; forest type mapping; normalized difference moisture index; remote sensing

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5849/forsci.10-041

Publication date: April 23, 2012

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