Eye-opening' study shows rural US loses forests faster than

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Lucas
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Eye-opening' study shows rural US loses forests faster than

Post by Lucas » Sat Feb 25, 2017 1:03 pm

Around here not much of a surprise.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2 ... 150300.htm


Americans are spending their lives farther from forests than they did at the end of the 20th century and, contrary to popular wisdom, the change is more pronounced in rural areas than in urban settings.

A study published in the journal PLOS ONE says that between 1990 and 2000, the average distance from any point in the United States to the nearest forest increased by 14 percent -- or about a third of a mile. And while the distance isn't insurmountable for humans in search of a nature fix, it can present challenges for wildlife and have broad effects on ecosystems.

Dr. Giorgos Mountrakis, an associate professor at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in Syracuse, New York, and co-author of the study, called the results "eye opening."

"Our study analyzed geographic distribution of forest losses across the continental U.S. While we focused on forests, the implications of our results go beyond forestry," Mountrakis said.

The study overturned conventional wisdom about forest loss, the researcher noted. The amount of forest attrition -- the complete removal of forest patches -- is considerably higher in rural areas and in public lands. "The public perceives the urbanized and private lands as more vulnerable," said Mountrakis, "but that's not what our study showed. Rural areas are at a higher risk of losing these forested patches. "Patches of forests are important to study because they serve a lot of unique ecoservices," Mountrakis said, citing bird migration as one example. "You can think of the forests as little islands that the birds are hopping from one to the next." "Typically we concentrate more on urban forest," said Sheng Yang, an ESF graduate student and co-author of the study, "but we may need to start paying more attention -- let's say for biodiversity reasons -- in rural rather than urban areas. Because the urban forests tend to receive much more attention, they are better protected." Forest dynamics are an integral part of larger ecosystems and have the potential to significantly affect water chemistry, soil erosion, carbon sequestration patterns, local climate, biodiversity distribution and human quality of life, Mountrakis said. Using forest maps over the entire continental United States, researchers compared satellite data from the 1990s with data from 2000. "We did a statistical analysis starting with forest maps from 1990 and compared it to forests in 2000," said Mountrakis.

The study looked at the loss of forest by calculating the distance to the nearest forest from every area in the landscape, Mountrakis said. The loss of a smaller isolated forest could have a greater environmental impact than losing acreage within a larger forest.

The study also found distance to the nearest forest is considerably greater in western forests than eastern forests.

"So if you are in the western U.S. or you are in a rural area or you are in land owned by a public entity, it could be federal, state or local, your distance to the forest is increasing much faster than the other areas," he said. "The forests are getting further away from you."

"Distances to nearest forest are also increasing much faster in less forested landscapes. This indicates that the most spatially isolated -- and therefore important -- forests are the ones under the most pressure," said Yang.

The loss of these unique forests proposes a different set of side effects, Mountrakis said, "for local climate, for biodiversity, for soil erosion. This is the major driver -- we can link the loss of the isolated patches to all these environmental degradations."

Along with research into the drivers behind the loss of forests, Mountrakis expects the differing geographic distributions and differences in land ownership and urbanization levels will initiate new research and policy across forestry, ecology, social science and geography.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

Joe

Re: Eye-opening' study shows rural US loses forests faster t

Post by Joe » Sat Feb 25, 2017 1:14 pm

One major loss of forest in the Northeast is solar "farms"!
Joe

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Don
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Re: Eye-opening' study shows rural US loses forests faster t

Post by Don » Sat Feb 25, 2017 9:02 pm

I'd guess that agricultural expansion has been a long-time ingredient in this...
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Bart Bouricius
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Re: Eye-opening' study shows rural US loses forests faster t

Post by Bart Bouricius » Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:19 am

I have seen this in Massachusetts, where an earlier study at Harvard University showed rapid deforestation occurring throughout New England. Here in Costa Rica rapid forest loss to a point in 1987 when only 21% was left forested has been reversed and is now about 51%. The protected forests have increased to over 27% and more forests are continually being preserved and re-established by both government and private organizations. This is particularly important here, because in this small country there are a remarkable number of very different ecosystems from desert to very wet rainforests, with each change in altitude or rainfall producing different environments. Unfortunately few countries seem to be following this example.


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Matt Markworth
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Re: Eye-opening' study shows rural US loses forests faster t

Post by Matt Markworth » Sun Feb 26, 2017 8:58 am

Joe,

Interesting article, especially the maps showing deforestation over time.

Humans, unfortunately, will continue to come up with any host of reasons/stories/rationalizations on why we must wrest control over the Earth and be in a constant struggle. The next article written about this event could just as easily be a feel good story about how Cargill is reaching out to the family farmer and creating new biodiesel markets, and maybe a feel good side story on how much CO2 levels are being reduced by this new arrangement - just more reasons and rationalizations.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that the underlying issue of why we find ourselves in a constant battle with nature is that humans have the sense that we individually "came into this world," yet in reality we "came out of this world" no different than all other species. If there is ever a collective sense (especially in the West) that we came out of this world then maybe our sensibilities can change - but I think we're a very, very long way from that.

Matt

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