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Assessment of forest disturbances by selective logging and forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon using Landsat data

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The rapid environmental changes occurring in the Brazilian Amazon due to widespread deforestation have attracted the attention of the scientific community for several decades. A topic of particular interest involves the assessment of the combined impacts of selective logging and forest fires. Forest disturbances by selective logging and forest fires may vary in scale, from local to global changes, mostly related to the increase of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Selective logging activities and forest fires have been reported by several studies as important agents of land-use and land-cover changes. Previous studies have focused on selective logging, but forest fires on a large scale in tropical regions have yet to be properly addressed. This study involved a more comprehensive investigation of temporal and basin-wide changes of forest disturbances by selective logging and forest fires using remotely sensed data acquired in 1992, 1996, and 1999. Landsat imagery and remote-sensing techniques for detecting burned forests and estimating forest canopy cover were applied. We also conducted rigorous ground measurements and observations to validate remote-sensing techniques and to assess canopy-cover impacts by selective logging and forest fires in three different states in the Brazilian Amazon. The results of this study showed a substantial increase in total forested areas impacted by selective logging and forest fires from approximately 11,800 to 35,600 km2 in 1992 and 1999, respectively. Selective logging was responsible for 60.4% of this forest disturbance in the studied period. Approximately 33% and 7% of forest disturbances detected in the same period were due to impacts of forest fires only and selective logging and forest fires combined, respectively. Most of the degraded forests (∼90%) were detected in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará. Our estimates indicated that approximately 5467, 7618, and 17437 km2 were new areas of selective logging and/or forest fires in 1992, 1996, and 1999, respectively. Protected areas seemed to be very effective in constraining these types of forest degradation. Approximately 2.4% and 1.3% of the total detected selectively logged and burned forests, respectively, were geographically located within protected areas. We observed, however, an increasing trend for these anthropogenic activities to occur within the limits of protected areas from 1992 to 1999. Although forest fires impacted the least area of tropical forests in the study region, new areas of burned forests detected in 1996 and 1999 were responsible for the greatest impact on canopy cover, with an estimated canopy loss of 18.8% when compared to undisturbed forests. Selective logging and forest fires combined impacted even more those forest canopies, with an estimated canopy loss of 27.5%. Selectively logged forest only showed the least impact on canopy cover, with an estimated canopy loss of 5%. Finally, we observed that forest canopy cover impacted by selective logging activities can recover faster (up to 3 years) from impact when compared to those forests disturbed by fires (up to 5 years) in the Amazon region.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Forestry,University of Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil 2: Department of Forestry,Michigan State University, East Lansing,MI, USA 3: Laboratório de Estudos do Espaço Antrópico,Norte Fluminense Darcy Ribeiro State University, Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil

Publication date: 2013-02-20

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