Assessment of tropical forest degradation by selective logging and fire using Landsat imagery
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Many studies have assessed the process of forest degradation in the Brazilian Amazon using remote sensing approaches to estimate the extent and impact by selective logging and forest fires on tropical rain forest. However, only a few have estimated the combined impacts of those anthropogenic activities. We conducted a detailed analysis of selective logging and forest fire impacts on natural forests in the southern Brazilian Amazon state of Mato Grosso, one of the key logging centers in the country. To achieve this goal a 13-year series of annual Landsat images (1992-2004) was used to test different remote sensing techniques for measuring the extent of selective logging and forest fires, and to estimate their impact and interaction with other land use types occurring in the study region. Forest canopy regeneration following these disturbances was also assessed. Field measurements and visual observations were conducted to validate remote sensing techniques. Our results indicated that the Modified Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index aerosol free (MSAVI(af)) is a reliable estimator of fractional coverage under both clear sky and under smoky conditions in this study region. During the period of analysis, selective logging was responsible for disturbing the largest proportion (31%) of natural forest in the study area, immediately followed by deforestation (29%). Altogether, forest disturbances by selective logging and forest fires affected approximately 40% of the study site area. Once disturbed by selective logging activities, forests became more susceptible to fire in the study site. However, our results showed that fires may also occur in undisturbed forests. This indicates that there are further factors that may increase forest fire susceptibility in the study area. Those factors need to be better understood. Although selective logging affected the largest amount of natural forest in the study period, 35% and 28% of the observed losses of forest canopy cover were due to forest fire and selective logging combined and to forest fire only, respectively. Moreover, forest areas degraded by selective logging and forest fire is an addition to outright deforestation estimates and has yet to be accounted for by land use and land cover change assessments in tropical regions. Assuming that this observed trend of land use and land cover conversion continues, we predict that there will be no undisturbed forests remaining by 2011 in this study site. Finally, we estimated that 70% of the total forest area disturbed by logging and fire had sufficiently recovered to become undetectable using satellite data in 2004. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.