Mapping Causes of Disturbance in U.S. Forests
To monitor forest health and manage lands for multiple uses, managers need to understand the processes driving forest change at fine spatial scales over long time spans. This study used Landsat imagery and a set of algorithms to link forest change event type and timing to more than 258 million hectares of U.S. forested ecosystems. The resulting maps show areas of persisting forest cover loss resulting from land use conversion, as well as temporary losses caused by fire, removals, stress, and wind. Over 24 years of data, 1986-2010, it was observed most forest area (71%) experienced little-to-no canopy cover loss. Where canopy cover loss was detected, the vast majority was attributed to temporary removals (81%). Wildfire accounted for 12%, stress 5%, and 2% to conversion. Through time, within and between geographic regions, the relative area per year of removals, fire, and stress varied substantially. This improved characterization of forest cover loss will help support analysis not previously possible across the entire conterminous U.S.
Forest Service Partners