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Asian forests show resilience despite rising disturbances from climate change and human activities

Asian forests show excellent resilience despite rising disturbances from climate change and human activities
Evergreen needleleaf forest in the sunshine. Credit: YiYing Zhu

Since 1850, global temperatures have been steadily rising. Human activities have significantly increased the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, exacerbating the greenhouse effect and global warming. Forests in Asia have faced numerous challenges from climate change and human activities, threatening their stability and ecological functions. However, detailed studies on forest disturbances and their responses in this region are limited.

Ecologists from Beijing Forestry University and the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, China, conducted a comprehensive analysis of forest disturbances and resilience using satellite remote sensing data in a new study. The associated paper has recently been published in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters.

Forest ecosystems absorb about 33% of the from human-related emissions, which is vital to mitigation and adaptation. However, frequently occurring climate extremes and human activities have considerably threatened the resilience of forests.

The study employed the Breaks For Additive Seasonal and Trend (BFAST) method, an effective tool for detecting abrupt changes in , to analyze the Enhanced Vegetation Index time series across East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. By identifying disturbances and quantifying forest resilience, the research sheds light on the dynamics of in response to various external pressures.

"20% of forests in Asia's low and middle latitudes experienced disturbances between 2000 and 2022, with Southeast Asian countries being particularly affected. Despite these challenges, 95% of the forests showed robust resilience and recovered from disturbances within a few decades.

"Notably, forests with greater disturbance magnitude exhibited stronger resilience; they tend to have faster recovery rates compared to forests with lower disturbance magnitude," says the first author, Yiying Zhu, an ecology researcher at Beijing Forestry University. "This is good news for adapting to future extreme events due to climate change or human activities."

"Almost half of the forest disturbances were caused by commodity-driven deforestation, and the average recovery time for a forest ecosystem to return to its pre-disturbance state was 16.2 years," explains Prof. Hesong Wang, a global change ecology researcher at Beijing Forestry University. "The land-use changes resulting from human activities have a profound impact on forest ecosystems, and we need to have a deeper understanding of ecosystem recovery to mitigate the damage to forests."

"Applying satellite remote sensing in monitoring and managing forest ecosystems is essential for us to elucidate the relationship between disturbances and forest recovery," adds Associate Prof. Anzhi Zhang, an associate professor from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, China, another co-author of the paper.

"Satellite remote sensing provides valuable insights for sustainable forest management practices in the region, and should be employed throughout the globe."

In conclusion, this research underscores the excellent of Asian forests after disturbances, as revealed by data. By elucidating the spatial and temporal patterns of forest dynamics, the study contributes to advancing our knowledge of forest ecology and informs conservation strategies for preserving forest ecosystems.

More information: Yiying Zhu et al, Satellite remote sensing reveals overwhelming recovery of forest from disturbances in Asia, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.aosl.2024.100511

Citation: Asian forests show resilience despite rising disturbances from climate change and human activities (2024, May 28) retrieved 13 July 2024 from
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