Recent rates of forest harvest and conversion in North America

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Abstract

[1] Incorporating ecological disturbance into biogeochemical models is critical for estimating current and future carbon stocks and fluxes. In particular, anthropogenic disturbances, such as forest conversion and wood harvest, strongly affect forest carbon dynamics within North America. This paper summarizes recent (2000–2008) rates of extraction, including both conversion and harvest, derived from national forest inventories for North America (the United States, Canada, and Mexico). During the 2000s, 6.1 million ha/yr were affected by harvest, another 1.0 million ha/yr were converted to other land uses through gross deforestation, and 0.4 million ha/yr were degraded. Thus about 1.0% of North America's forests experienced some form of anthropogenic disturbance each year. However, due to harvest recovery, afforestation, and reforestation, the total forest area on the continent has been roughly stable during the decade. On average, about 110 m3 of roundwood volume was extracted per hectare harvested across the continent. Patterns of extraction vary among the three countries, with U.S. and Canadian activity dominated by partial and clear-cut harvest, respectively, and activity in Mexico dominated by conversion (deforestation) for agriculture. Temporal trends in harvest and clearing may be affected by economic variables, technology, and forest policy decisions. While overall rates of extraction appear fairly stable in all three countries since the 1980s, harvest within the United States has shifted toward the southern United States and away from the Pacific Northwest.

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