ABSTRACT Quantifying forest change in the tropics is important because of the role these forests play in the conservation of biodiversity and the global carbon cycle. One of the world's largest remaining areas of tropical forest is located in Papua New Guinea. Here we show that change in its extent and condition has occurred to a greater extent than previously recorded. We assessed deforestation and forest degradation in Papua New Guinea by comparing a land‐cover map from 1972 with a land‐cover map created from nationwide high‐resolution satellite imagery recorded since 2002. In 2002 there were 28,251,967 ha of tropical rain forest. Between 1972 and 2002, a net 15 percent of Papua New Guinea's tropical forests were cleared and 8.8 percent were degraded through logging. The drivers of forest change have been concentrated within the accessible forest estate where a net 36 percent were degraded or deforested through both forestry and nonforestry processes. Since 1972, 13 percent of upper montane forests have also been lost. We estimate that over the period 1990–2002, overall rates of change generally increased and varied between 0.8 and 1.8 percent/yr, while rates in commercially accessible forest have been far higher—having varied between 1.1 and 3.4 percent/yr. These rates are far higher than those reported by the FAO over the same period. We conclude that rapid and substantial forest change has occurred in Papua New Guinea, with the major drivers being logging in the lowland forests and subsistence agriculture throughout the country with comparatively minor contributions from forest fires, plantation establishment, and mining.
Biotropica – Wiley
Published: May 1, 2009
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