Human impact on rain forests reaches tsunami stage

January 13th, 2009 - 1:24 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 13 (ANI): Scientists have said that human impact on tropical forest ecosystems has reached a tsunami stage, and will require a new generation of sophisticated remote-sensing technology to monitor the changes.

In a symposium at the Smithsonian Institution, Gregory Asner of the Carnegie Institutions Department of Global Ecology presented new estimates of the global human impact on rain forests, including not only deforestation, but also the extent of selective logging and forest regeneration.

Asner and his co-authors Tom Rudel of Rutgers University, Mitch Aide from University of Puerto Rico, Ruth DeFries of Columbia University, and Ruth Emerson from Carnegie compiled their estimates using data from satellite observations, published field surveys, and a sampling of Google Earth images.

They highlight that roughly 1.4 percent of the worlds tropical humid forests was deforested between 2000 and 2005, and that as of 2005 more than half of the forests contained 50 percent or less tree cover.

Selective logging is more difficult to recognize and quantify than outright deforestation, so there have been few estimates of its impact, said Asner. But we found that around 28 percent of humid tropical forests are undergoing some level of timber harvesting, he added.

The overall impacts of selective logging on biodiversity are far less dramatic than the wholesale losses incurred by deforestation, but nonetheless, it can fundamentally alter forest habitat, he explained.

The researchers also found that at least 1.7 percent of humid tropical forests are in some stage of secondary regrowth, mostly in hilly or mountainous regions marginal for large-scale agriculture and ranching.

According to Asner, new technologies to resolve subtle forest changes, such as the new sensors being developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Carnegie, will be necessary as the rainforest tsunami continues to sweep through tropical ecosystems in the coming decades. (ANI)

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