Forest change is of great concern for land use decision makers and conservation communities. Quantitative and spatial forest change information is critical for addressing many pressing issues, including global climate change, carbon budgets, and sustainability. In this study, our analysis focuses on the differences in geospatial patterns and their changes between federal forests and nonfederal forests in Alabama over the time period 1987-2005, by interpreting 163 Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) scenes using a vegetation change tracker (VCT) model. Our analysis revealed that for the most part of 1990 s and between 2000 and 2005, Alabama lost about 2% of its forest on an annual basis due to disturbances, but much of the losses were balanced by forest regeneration from previous disturbances. The disturbance maps revealed that federal forests were reasonably well protected, with the fragmentation remaining relatively stable over time. In contrast, nonfederal forests, which are predominant in area share (about 95%), were heavily disturbed, clearly demonstrating decreasing levels of fragmentation during the time period 1987-1993 giving way to a subsequent accelerating fragmentation during the time period 1994-2005. Additionally, the identification of the statistical relationships between forest fragmentation status and forest loss rate and forest net change rate in relation to land ownership implied the distinct differences in forest cutting rate and cutting patterns between federal forests and nonfederal forests. The forest spatial change information derived from the model has provided valuable insights regarding regional forest management practices and disturbance regimes, which are closely associated with regional economics and environmental concerns. ?? 2008 Elsevier B.V.
Additional publication details
Assessing rates of forest change and fragmentation in Alabama, USA, using the vegetation change tracker model