Estimation of Pan-Tropical Deforestation and Implications for Conservation
Townshend, John R
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Reducing tropical deforestation has been a primary focus for the implementation of policies that are aimed at biodiversity conservation, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as tropical forests have, biologically, the richest ecosystem on Earth, tropical deforestation is one of the largest sources of anthropogenic carbon emission into the atmosphere, and preventing it is the most inexpensive option, in order to reduce carbon emissions and conserve biodiversity. To set the effective policies and conservation plans to reduce emission from tropical deforestation, the evaluation of effectiveness of both the current and previous efforts for conservation is critical. The three studies in this dissertation describe the development of the methods to accurately monitor pan-tropical forest cover change, using satellite remote sensing data, and their integration with the econometrics approach, to evaluate the effectiveness of the tropical forest conservation practices. The dissertation contributes a method for long-term, global forest cover change estimation from Landsat, and the methods are applied to report the first, pan-tropical forest cover change trends, between the 1990s and the 2000s. The global forest cover change product from 1990 to 2000, which was produced, based on the developed methods which are evaluated to have an overall accuracy of 88%. The results demonstrate that tropical deforestation has accelerated between the 1990s and the 2000s by 62%, which contradicts the assertions of it being decelerating. The results further show that the increased deforestation rate between the 1990s and the 2000s is significantly correlated with the increases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate, agricultural production growth, and urban population growth between the two decades. Protected Areas (PA), throughout the tropics, avoided 83,000 ± 22,000 km2 of the deforestation during the 2000s. The effectiveness of international aid can be suppressed by weak governance and the lack of forest change monitoring capacity of each country. The conclusions of this dissertation provide a historical baseline for the estimates of tropical forest cover change, and for the evaluation of effectiveness of such conservation efforts.