Tracking global tropical rainforest vulnerability

The National Geographic Society brought together a team of top scientists, including Congo Basin Institute collaborator Dr. Sassan Saatchi and Co-Director, Dr. Thomas Smith, to measure tropical rainforest vulnerability and help identify regions for conservation and restoration. Read the featured article, “Can a new way to measure tropical rainforest vulnerability help save them?,” at the National Geographic Society website and see the research publication, “Detecting vulnerability of humid tropical forests to multiple stressors,” at One Earth. 

“Rainforests take hundreds of years to be formed into a diverse and complex structure that is lush but fragile. The reason for their fragility is the difficulty to recover from disturbance. Using satellite observations, we show how increasing threats from large-scale deforestation and severe climate conditions over the past four decades have substantially impacted the ecological functions of these forests regionally, pushing them toward a critical point of no recovery and a dryer and less diverse state.”

— Saatchi et al., 2021 One Earth 4, 988-1003

Figure: Spatial patterns of stressors across humid tropical forests
Patterns of LCLUC indicators are shown as: the trend of annual TC change (1982–2018) capturing deforestation and degradation, and average of maximum
fraction of fire burned area (BA) at the pixel over the entire time series (1982–2018). Patterns of climate stressors are shown using trends of air temperature (AT),
VPD, and WB from 1982 to 2018.