Assessing the ecological vulnerability of forest landscape to agricultural frontier expansion in the Central Highlands of Vietnam

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Forest conservation in human-dominated tropical landscapes ensures provision of major ecosystem services. However, conservation goals are threatened by growing demands for agricultural products. As the expansion of agricultural frontiers continues to exert increasing pressure on forest cover, it is crucial to provide indicators on forest vulnerability to improve our understanding of forest dynamics and prioritize management actions by local decision-makers. The purpose of this study is to develop a rigorous methodological framework to assess forest ecological vulnerability. We aim at evaluating the potential of remote sensing to characterize forest landscape dynamics in spatial and temporal dimensions. We present an innovative method that spatially integrates current landscape mosaic mapping with 45 years of landscape trajectories using Sentinel-2 and Landsat imagery. We derive indicators of exposure to cropland expansion, sensitivity linked with forest degradation and fragmentation, and forest capacity to respond based on forest landscape composition in Di Linh district in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. We map current forest-agricultural mosaics with high accuracy to assess landscape intensification (kappa index = 0.78). We also map the expansion of the agricultural frontier and highlighted heterogeneous agricultural encroachment on forested areas (kappa index = 0.72-0.93). Finally, we identify degradation and fragmentation trajectories that affect forest cover at different rates and intensity. Combined, these indicators pinpoint hotspots of forest vulnerability. This study provides tailored management responses and levers for action by local decision makers. The accessibility of multi-dimensional remote sensing data and the developed landscape approach open promising perspectives for continuously monitoring agricultural frontiers.
Authors: Bourgoin, C.; Oszwald, J.; Bourgoin, J.; Gond, V.; Blanc, L.; Dessard, H.; Van Phan, T.; Sist, P.; Läderach, P.; Reymondin, L.
Subjects: deforestation, degradation, landscape
Publication type: Article
Source: International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation 84: 101958
Year: 2019
ISSN: 0303-2434

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