Decline of forest interior conditions in the conterminous United States
Forest fragmentation threatens the sustainability of forest interior environments, thereby endangering subordinate ecological attributes and functions. We analyzed the spatial patterns of forest loss and gain for the conterminous United States from 2001 to 2006 to determine whether forest interior environments were maintained at five spatial scales. A 1.1% net loss of total forest area translated to net losses of 3.2% to 10.5% of forest interior area over spatial scales of 4.41 ha to 5,310 ha. At the 65.6-ha scale, the reduction of forest interior area was 50,000 km2 – almost double the net loss of total forest area. The pervasive discrepancy between total forest loss and forest interior loss indicates a widespread shift of the extant forest to more fragmented conditions, even in regions exhibiting small net changes in extant forest area. In the conterminous United States, trends in total forest area underestimate threats to forest from forest fragmentation.