Forest Area Change in the Shifting Landscape Mosaic of the Continental United States from 2001 to 2016
The landscape context (i.e., anthropogenic setting) of forest change partly determines the social-ecological outcomes of the change. Furthermore, forest change occurs within, is constrained by, and contributes to a dynamic landscape context. We illustrate how information about local landscape context can be incorporated into regional assessments of forest area change. We examined the status and change of forest area in the continental United States from 2001 to 2016, quantifying landscape context by using a landscape mosaic classification that describes the dominance and interface (i.e., juxtaposition) of developed and agriculture land in relation to forest and other land. The mosaic class changed for five percent of total land area and three percent of total forest area. The least stable classes were those comprising the developed interface. Forest loss rates were highest in developed-dominated landscapes, but the forest area in those landscapes increased by 18 percent as the expansion of developed landscapes assimilated more forest area than was lost from earlier developed landscapes. Conversely, forest loss rates were lowest in agriculture-dominated landscapes where there was a net loss of five percent of forest area, even as the area of those landscapes also increased. Exposure of all land to nearby forest removal, fire, and stress was highest in natural-dominated landscapes, while exposure to nearby increases in developed and agriculture land was highest in developed- and agriculture-dominated landscapes. We discuss applications of our approach for mapping, monitoring, and modeling landscape and land use change.