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Science. 2018 Sep 14;361(6407):1108-1111. doi: 10.1126/science.aau3445.

Classifying drivers of global forest loss.

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Sustainability Consortium, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA.
Sustainability Consortium, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA.
World Resources Institute, 10 G Street N.E., Washington, DC 20002, USA.
Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


Global maps of forest loss depict the scale and magnitude of forest disturbance, yet companies, governments, and nongovernmental organizations need to distinguish permanent conversion (i.e., deforestation) from temporary loss from forestry or wildfire. Using satellite imagery, we developed a forest loss classification model to determine a spatial attribution of forest disturbance to the dominant drivers of land cover and land use change over the period 2001 to 2015. Our results indicate that 27% of global forest loss can be attributed to deforestation through permanent land use change for commodity production. The remaining areas maintained the same land use over 15 years; in those areas, loss was attributed to forestry (26%), shifting agriculture (24%), and wildfire (23%). Despite corporate commitments, the rate of commodity-driven deforestation has not declined. To end deforestation, companies must eliminate 5 million hectares of conversion from supply chains each year.

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