, Volume 18, Issue 13, pp 3421-3440
Date: 24 May 2009

Clearance and fragmentation of tropical rain forest in Xishuangbanna, SW, China

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Abstract

Xishuangbanna, situated in the northern margin of the tropical zone in Southeast Asia, maintains large areas of tropical rain forest and contains rich biodiversity. However, tropical rain forests are being rapidly destroyed in this region. This paper analyzed spatial and temporal changes of forest cover and the patterns of forests fragmentation in Xishuangbanna by comparing classified satellite images from 1976, 1988 and 2003 using GIS analyses. The patterns of fragmentation and the effects of edge width were examined using selected landscape indices. The results show that forest cover declined from 69% in 1976 to less than 50% in 2003, the number of forests fragments increased from 6,096 to 8,324, and the mean patch size declined from 217 to 115 ha. It was found that fragment size distribution was strongly skewed towards small values, and fragment size and internal habitat differ strongly among forest types: less fragmented in subtropical evergreen broadleaf forest, but severe in forests that are suitable for agriculture (such as tropical seasonal rain forest and mountain rain forest). Due to fragmentation, the edge width was smaller in 2003 than that in 1976 when the total area of edge habitat exceeded core habitat in different forest types. The core area of tropical seasonal rain forest was smallest among main forest types at any edge width. Fragmentation was severe within 12.5-km buffers around roads. The current forest cover within reserves in Xishuangbanna was comparatively large and less fragmented. However, the tropical rain forest has been degraded inside reserves. For conservation purposes, the approaches to establish forest fragments networks by corridors and stepping stone fragments are proposed. The conservation efforts should be directed first toward the conservation of remaining tropical rain forests.