Change in tropical forest cover of Southeast Asia from 1990 to 2010
Abstract. The study assesses the extent and trends of forest cover in Southeast Asia for the periods 1990–2000 and 2000–2010 and provides an overview on the main causes of forest cover change. A systematic sample of 418 sites (10 km × 10 km size) located at the one-degree geographical confluence points and covered with satellite imagery of 30 m resolution is used for the assessment. Techniques of image segmentation and automated classification are combined with visual satellite image interpretation and quality control, involving forestry experts from Southeast Asian countries. The accuracy of our results is assessed through an independent consistency assessment, performed from a subsample of 1572 mapping units and resulting in an overall agreement of >85% for the general differentiation of forest cover versus non-forest cover. The total forest cover of Southeast Asia is estimated at 268 Mha in 1990, dropping to 236 Mha in 2010, with annual change rates of 1.75 Mha (∼0.67%) and 1.45 Mha (∼0.59%) for the periods 1990–2000 and 2000–2010, respectively. The vast majority of forest cover loss (∼2 / 3 for 2000–2010) occurred in insular Southeast Asia. Complementing our quantitative results by indicative information on patterns and on processes of forest change, obtained from the screening of satellite imagery and through expert consultation, respectively, confirms the conversion of forest to cash crops plantations (including oil palm) as the main cause of forest loss in Southeast Asia. Logging and the replacement of natural forests by forest plantations are two further important change processes in the region.