Science - September 28, 2017

Forest is replaced by other natural landscapes

Text:
Roelof Kleis

The Netherlands is losing forest cover – at a rate of 1350 hectares a year over the past four years. But the main reason is that forest is being replaced by other types of natural landscape, shows an analysis by Wageningen researchers.

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The study is the work of Eric Arets, Mart-Jan Schelhaas and Henk Kramer at Wageningen Environmental Research. They compared topographical maps of the Netherlands from four years ago with current ones. This revealed a net loss of forest (deforestation minus new plantation), say the group in an article in the Dutch journal Natuur Bos Landschap (Nature Forest Landscape).

By far the most forest that has vanished – 38 percent – was apparently felled to make way for other natural vegetation such as heathland or sand dunes. Eleven percent of the forest made way for agriculture, particularly in the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. The forests in question here were temporary ones created with a government subsidy in the 1980s to cater for an expected shortage of wood. Much of the timber in those temporary woods on farmland has been harvested in recent years once the subsidy period had elapsed. A further nine percent of the forest was felled to build homes and roads. At least 40 percent of the lost forest turned out to be the result, not of changed land use but of imprecise maps and inaccuracies in the method applied. So the real rate of deforestation was lower and the researchers adjusted their data for that.

By far the most forest that has vanished – 38 percent – was apparently felled to make way for other natural vegetation such as heathland or sand dunes. Eleven percent of the forest made way for agriculture, particularly in the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. The forests in question here were temporary ones created with a government subsidy in the 1980s to cater for an expected shortage of wood. Much of the timber in those temporary woods on farmland has been harvested in recent years once the subsidy period had elapsed. A further nine percent of the forest was felled to build homes and roads. At least 40 percent of the lost forest turned out to be the result, not of changed land use but of imprecise maps and inaccuracies in the method applied. So the real rate of deforestation was lower and the researchers adjusted their data for that.


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