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Spatiotemporal Patterns of Forest in the Transnational Area of Changbai Mountain from 1977 to 2015: A Comparative Analysis of the Chinese and DPRK Sub-Regions

Tao, Hui, Nan, Ying, Liu, Zhi-Feng
Sustainability 2017 v.9 no.6
Landsat, biodiversity, disasters, ecosystem services, forest dynamics, forest management, forests, habitat fragmentation, habitats, landscapes, logging, sustainable development, typhoons, urbanization, China, North Korea
The transnational area of Changbai Mountain (TACM) is crucial to sustainable development in Northeast Asia owing to its abundant forest, which helps in maintaining biodiversity and multiple ecosystem services. However, the spatiotemporal patterns of forest in the TACM have been poorly understood across the whole region. The objectives of this study were to quantify the spatiotemporal patterns of forest in the TACM from 1977 to 2015, investigate the causes of forest dynamics, and assess the impacts of forest dynamics on habitat quality. To do this, we first extracted the forest in the TACM from Landsat images acquired in 1977, 1988, 1999, 2007, and 2015 using visual interpretation. Then, we analyzed the spatiotemporal patterns of forest in the TACM from 1977 to 2015 using landscape metrics and compared the dynamics of forest between the area in China and the area in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). After that, we investigated the driving forces of forest dynamics and the impacts of forest dynamics on habitat quality. We found that the TACM experienced a noticeable forest decrease—from 1.57 million ha in 1977 to 1.48 million ha in 2015, a decline of 5.78%—and underwent a forest fragmentation process. In particular, the sub-region in the DPRK had a much larger decrease (17.75%) than the sub-region in China (2.86%). We found that timber harvesting, urban expansion, agricultural reclamation, and typhoon disasters were the main driving forces behind forest decreases in the TACM. Specifically, agricultural reclamation was the most important factor in the DPRK sub-region, while urban expansion was the dominant factor in the Chinese sub-region. Furthermore, such forest loss and fragmentation has resulted in declines in habitat quality across both sides of the TACM. Thus, we suggest that more effective forest management with cooperation between China and DPRK is needed to maintain and improve forest coverage in the TACM.