Cambodia, Change analysis, Flooded forest, Hydropower dams, Land-cover, Land-use, Landsat, Mekong river, Random forest, Tropical deforestation
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The Mekong River is a globally important river system, known for its unique flood pulse hydrology, ecological productivity, and biodiversity. Flooded forests provide critical terrestrial nutrient inputs and habitat to support aquatic species. However, the Mekong River is under threat from anthropogenic stressors, including deforestation from land cultivation and urbanization, and dam construction that inundates forests and encourages road development. This study investigated spatio-temporal patterns of deforestation in Cambodia and portions of neighboring Laos and Vietnam that form the Srepok-Sesan-Sekong watershed. A random forest model predicted tree cover change over a 25-year period (1993-2017) using the Landsat satellite archive. Then, a statistical predictive deforestation model was developed using annual-resolution predictors such as land-cover change, hydropower development, forest fragmentation, and socio-economic, topo-edaphic and climatic predictors. The results show that almost 19% of primary forest (nearly 24,000 km2) was lost, with more deforestation in floodplain (31%) than upland (18%) areas. Our results corroborate studies showing extremely high rates of deforestation in Cambodia. Given the rapidly accelerating deforestation rates, even in protected areas and community forests, influenced by a growing population and economy and extreme poverty, our study highlights landscape features indicating an increased risk of future deforestation, supporting a spatial framework for future conservation and mitigation efforts.
Lohani, S, TE Dilts, PJ Weisberg, SE Null, ZSHogan. 2020. Rapidly accelerating deforestation in Cambodia’s Mekong River Basin: a comparative analysis of spatial patterns and drivers.Water12(8), 2191. DOI: 10.3390/w12082191.IF: 3.1, Cit. 20.