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Marthe Roch [04-2014]:

Revealing forest cover loss in Paraguay´s Atlantic Forest region ‐ A remote sensing and GIS based forest monitoring

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This study examined the spatial impact of forest loss in Paraguay´s Atlantic Forest between 2003 and 2013 with a special focus on biodiversity conservation. The subtropical Atlantic Forest is a highly diverse ecosystem in South America and one of the most endangered rain forests in the world. Due to its critical conservation status, the Atlanitc Forest was designated as a global biodiversity hotspot. The present study focuses on the Paraguayan part of the trinational Atlantic Forest. It covers an area of 86,000 km² in Eastern Paraguay. The main threats are the loss of forest cover due to other land use priorities and increasing forest fragmentation. For many years, the Atlantic Forest in Paraguay had one of the highest rates of deforestation worldwide and today only a small part is still covered with natural forest. In recent years, forest conservation has become more prominent in Paraguay´s environmental policies. Within this context, geo‐spatial techniques such as remote sensing and GIS analyis were applied to reveal forest loss within the last decade, distinguish deforestation patterns, and characterize the current forest landscape within the study area. Initially, the forest cover of two points in time were derived using pixel‐based classification of Landsat satellite data. Eight Landsat‐7 images in 2003 and eight Landsat‐8 images in 2013 were classified in order to cover the large study area. The forest cover classification reached a high level of accuracy, ranging between 83 and 95 percent. Subsequently, forest loss between 2003 and 2013 were quantified and mapped for the whole study area. In addition, four different forest loss patterns were distinguished by visual interpretation. The object‐based detection of these specific deforestation areas was particularly challenging and are in need of further investigation. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of protected areas, forest loss in and outside protected areas were analyzed by GIS analysis. The forest landscape and its fragmentation level was characterized by a set of landscape metrics. In particular, the core area and proximity analysis support the identification of forest priority areas and potential biological corridors. In summary, the study revealed that deforestation and fragmentation of the Atlantic Forest area continued, but at a slower pace than in the previous decade. Different deforestation types and patterns are caused by different drivers. Protected areas are very effective in forest consevation. However, forest core areas without any protection status need further attention. Intact forest patches and their connectivity are a crucial prerequisite to biodiversity conservation in a highly fragmented forest area. Forest protection and biodiversity conservation are strongly interlinked processes. The combination of different remote sensing and GIS methods provide valuable information for a sustainable forest management in the study area. The results were presented in several maps, providing an overall picture of the developments in Paraguay and its Atlantic Forest region.

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