Beyond deforestation: Differences in long-term regrowth dynamics across land use regimes in southern Amazonia


The loss of tropical forests threatens a broad range of ecosystem services. Particularly, tropical deforestation is a major driver of biodiversity decline and substantial carbon emissions. Regrowth of secondary vegetation may help to restore habitat for many threatened species and improve ecosystem services that deteriorated due to deforestation. However, spatial-temporal patterns of regrowing secondary vegetation in the tropics remain weakly understood. We therefore analyze regrowth dynamics across two different land use systems in southern Amazonia: the extensive pastoralism in Pará and the capital-intensive agriculture in Mato Grosso. Both systems are connected by the BR-163 highway, which represents a major axis of deforestation and agricultural development in the Brazilian Amazon since decades. We used a 29 year time series of Landsat images to extract regrowth extent, duration, lag time between deforestation and regrowth, and frequency of regrowth cycles. Our results reached an overall accuracy of 89% and showed regrowth on up to 50% of the deforested area in Pará and a maximum of 25% in Mato Grosso. In both states, annual regrowth rates drastically dropped after 1996, which coincided with socio-economic transformations and drought events. The majority of regrowth was concentrated within 60 m distance to forest edges and cleared again after an average of 5 years. Our approach bears great potential for mapping post deforestation regrowth dynamics within and beyond the Brazilian Amazon based on long-term and freely accessible remote sensing data collections, such as the Landsat and the forthcoming Sentinel-2 archives.

Remote Sensing of Environment
Patrick Hostert
Patrick Hostert
Principal Investigator