Cross-border forest disturbance and the role of natural rubber in mainland Southeast Asia using annual Landsat time series

Abstract

The recent rise in global demand for natural rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) has led to expansive areas of natural forest being transformed into monoculture plantations. This paper explores the utility of annual Landsat time series for monitoring forest disturbance and the role of natural rubber in mainland Southeast Asia from 2000 to 2012. A region on the Cambodian-Vietnamese border was chosen for this study considering four primary questions: 1) how accurately can annual Landsat time series map the location and timing of forest disturbances in evergreen and seasonal tropical forests, 2) are there cross-border differences in frontier and non-frontier forest disturbance rates between Cambodia and Vietnam, 3) what proportion of disturbances in frontier and non-frontier forests can be accounted for by the impact of rubber plantations, and 4) is there a relationship between global market prices for natural rubber and the annual rate of frontier forest clearing for rubber plantations on both sides of the border. We used LandTrendr (Landsat-based detection of trends in disturbance and recovery) for temporal segmentation of the Landsat time series and disturbance mapping. Our results show that this approach can provide accurate forest disturbance maps but that accuracy is affected by forest type. Highest accuracies were found in evergreen forest (91%), with lower accuracies in mixed (82%) and dry-deciduous forest types (86%). Our final map considering all forest types yielded an overall accuracy of 86%. Forest disturbance rates were generally higher on the Cambodian side of the border. Frontier forest disturbance rates averaged 3.8%/year in Cambodia compared to 2.5%/year in Vietnam. Conversion to rubber was the dominant form of frontier forest change in both countries (42% in Cambodia and 84% in Vietnam). Non-frontier forest disturbances averaged 4.0% and 2.5% in Cambodia and Vietnam, respectively, with most disturbances likewise linked with rubber plantations. Although rates of frontier forest disturbance differed in both countries, they each displayed similar correlations between disturbance rates related to rubber plantation expansion and price fluctuations of natural rubber. This suggests links between localized land cover/use change and international market forces, irrespective of differing political and socioeconomic backgrounds. Our study underlines the value of using dense Landsat time series when exploring the dynamics of human-induced land cover change.

Type
Publication
Remote Sensing of Environment
Dirk Pflugmacher
Dirk Pflugmacher
Senior Researcher
Patrick Hostert
Patrick Hostert
Principal Investigator