The landscape context of family forests in the United States: Anthropogenic interfaces and forest fragmentation from 2001 to 2011
The capacity of family owned forests to sustain ecological goods and services depends on the landscape context within which that forest occurs. For example, the expansion of a nearby urban area results in the loss of adjacent forest, which threatens the ability of the family forest to sustain interior forest habitat. Our objective was to assess the status and change of the landscape context of family forests across the conterminous United States, as measured by interior forest status and anthropogenic (urban and agricultural) interface zones. We combined circa 2005 forest inventory data with land cover maps from 2001 and 2011 to evaluate changes in the vicinity of 132,497 inventory locations. We compared family forests to nonfamily private and public forests, and evaluated regional conservation opportunities for family forests. Between 2001 and 2011, 1.5% of family forest area experienced a change of anthropogenic interface zone, and 46% was in an interface zone by 2011. During that same time, there was a net decrease of 9.7% of family owned interior forest area, such that 27% of family forest was interior forest by 2011. The rates of forest fragmentation and occurrence in anthropogenic interface zones were higher for family and nonfamily private forests than for public forest, yet family forests contained 31% of the extant interior forest area. The geography of landscape patterns suggested where aggregate actions by family forest owners may have relatively large regional effects upon extant interior forest conditions.
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