Forest disturbance decreased in China from 1986 to 2020 despite regional variations

Zhihua Liu, Wen J. Wang, Ashley Ballantyne, Hong S. He, Xugao Wang, Shuguang Liu, Philippe Ciais, Michael C. Wimberly, Shilong Piao, Kailiang Yu, Qichao Yao, Yu Liang, Zhiwei Wu, Yunting Fang, Anping Chen, Wenru Xu, Jiaojun Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Human activities have altered disturbance patterns in many parts of world, but there is no quantitative information on patterns and trends of forest disturbance regimes in China. We applied a spectral-temporal segmentation approach over all available Landsat data to map individual disturbance patches and characterize the patterns and trends in disturbance rate, size, frequency, and severity across China’s forests. From 1986 to 2020, about 39.7% of China’s forests were disturbed with an annual rate of 1.16 ± 0.41% yr−1. The disturbance decreased at a rate of −390 ± 142 km2 yr−1, primarily driven by the effective implementation of forest protection policy since 2000s. The rate, frequency, and size of disturbance generally intensified in Southeast, but weakened in Northeast China. Our high-quality, spatially explicit disturbance map provides an essential data layer to understand the landscape-scale drivers of forest dynamics and functions for important but less understood pan-temperate forest regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
JournalCommunications Earth and Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


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