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Sci Total Environ. 2017 Dec 31;607-608:1286-1292. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.07.062. Epub 2017 Jul 17.

Quantifying deforestation and forest degradation with thermal response.

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Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China. Electronic address:
Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China.
Terrestrial Ecohydrology Research Group, School of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, New South Wales 2007, Australia.
CNR-ISAFOM, Via Patacca, 85, 80056 Ercolano, Napoli, Italy.
Forest Ecosystems & Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97330, USA.
Virginia Commonwealth University, Department of Biology, 1000 W. Cary Street, Richmond, VA 23284-2012, USA.
ETH Zurich, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Zürich 8092, Switzerland.
CNR-IBIMET, Via Caproni 8, 50145 Firenze, Italy.
Faculty of Science and Technology, Free University of Bolzano, Bolzano, Italy; Forest Services, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Bolzano, Italy.
CNR-IBIMET, Traversa La Crucca 3, 07100 Sassari, Italy.
Center for Global Change & Earth Observations (CGCEO), Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823, USA.
Research Faculty of Agriculture, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-8589, Japan.
INRA, UMR EEF, 54280 Champenoux, France.
Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
School of Earth and Environment (SEE), The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.
School of Geosciences, the University of Edingburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3FF, The United Kingdom.


Deforestation and forest degradation cause the deterioration of resources and ecosystem services. However, there are still no operational indicators to measure forest status, especially for forest degradation. In the present study, we analysed the thermal response number (TRN, calculated by daily total net radiation divided by daily temperature range) of 163 sites including mature forest, disturbed forest, planted forest, shrubland, grassland, savanna vegetation and cropland. TRN generally increased with latitude, however the regression of TRN against latitude differed among vegetation types. Mature forests are superior as thermal buffers, and had significantly higher TRN than disturbed and planted forests. There was a clear boundary between TRN of forest and non-forest vegetation (i.e. grassland and savanna) with the exception of shrubland, whose TRN overlapped with that of forest vegetation. We propose to use the TRN of local mature forest as the optimal TRN (TRNopt). A forest with lower than 75% of TRNopt was identified as subjected to significant disturbance, and forests with 66% of TRNopt was the threshold for deforestation within the absolute latitude from 30° to 55°. Our results emphasized the irreplaceable thermal buffer capacity of mature forest. TRN can be used for early warning of deforestation and degradation risk. It is therefore a valuable tool in the effort to protect forests and prevent deforestation.


Disturbance; Reforestation; Succession; Surface temperature; Temperature stability

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