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Evaluating the Effectiveness of Forest Conservation Policies with Multitemporal Remotely Sensed Imagery: A Case Study From Tiantangzhai Township, Anhui, China


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Forests are declining across the globe due primarily to the overutilization of forest resources, particularly in developing countries. China, the world's largest developing country, is no exception. After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, it experienced a severe decline in forest resources, eventually leading to devastating natural disasters in the late 1990s. In response to these disasters, the Chinese government adopted a series of new forest policies including the Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program (CCFP) and the public welfare forest (PWF) program to mitigate the effects of future extreme weather events. The CCFP targets soil and water conservation by incentivizing farmers to convert cropland on steep slopes or other ecologically sensitive areas to forests. The PWF program prohibits logging to conserve natural forests. This case study was devised to examine the potential for using multitemporal remotely sensed data to monitor forest development associated with the CCFP and PWF programs in Tiantangzhai township, Anhui province, China. Results from the multitemporal remote sensing analysis indicate that the Tiantangzhai study area experienced a net increase in forest cover during the 21-year period from 1992 to 2013, especially after the implementation of the CCFP and PWF programs in 2002 and 1999, respectively. In addition to quantifying change in the areal extent of forest cover, three remotely sensed forest succession indexes were developed to characterize the temporal trajectory of forest canopy development. The canopy closure index, the maturity index, and the synergistic succession index reveal net forest canopy development including higher density canopies in younger forests and increasing canopy complexity in mature forests. These findings confirm our hypothesis that the CCFP and PWF programs had an observable effect upon both the quantity and quality of forest development within the Tiantangzhai study area.
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From Zhang, Q., Hakkenberg, C. R., & Song, C. (2018) Evaluating the Effectiveness
of Forest Conservation Policies with Multitemporal Remotely Sensed Imagery: A Case Study
From Tiantangzhai Township, Anhui, China. In S. Liang (Ed.), Comprehensive Remote
Sensing, vol. 9, pp. 39–58. Oxford: Elsevier.
ISBN: 9780128032206
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved
Author's personal copy
9.05 Evaluating the Effectiveness of Forest Conservation Policies with
Multitemporal Remotely Sensed Imagery: A Case Study From Tiantangzhai
Township, Anhui, China
Q Zhang, CR Hakkenberg, and C Song, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States
© 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
9.05.1 Introduction 39 Global Forest Decline and Forest Conservation 39 The Application of Remote Sensing to Forest Growth Monitoring 40 Chinas Forest Policies 40
9.05.2 Study Area, Data, and Methods 41 Study Area 41 Data Acquisition and Preprocessing 41 Classication of Imagery and CCFP Forest Stand Delineation 42 Growth Trends of Natural Forests and CCFP Forest Stands 43 Landscape Pattern Analysis 45
9.05.3 Results 46 Land Cover, Land Use, and Forest Landscape Pattern Change 46 Spectral/Temporal Trajectories in Forest Cover 48 Spatialtemporal patterns in all land cover classes 48 Spectral/temporal trajectories of remotely sensed forest development indexes 48 Growth Trends in CCFP Forest Stands Based on Remotely Sensed Forest Development Indexes 52 Temporal trajectories of CCFP forest stands 52 Comparison of vegetation indexes for CCFP forest stands 52
9.05.4 Discussion 53 Land Cover Classication and Change Detection 53 Temporal Trajectories and Growth Trend of Natural Forests and CCFP Stands 54
9.05.5 Conclusions 56
Acknowledgment 56
References 56
9.05.1 Introduction Global Forest Decline and Forest Conservation
Forests play a key role in providing essential goods and services to humankind, such as food and ber, soil and water conservation,
wildlife habitat, and carbon storage (DeFries et al., 2004; Daily, 1997; MEA, 2005). Alongside tremendous global economic and
population growth over the last few decades, global forests have been profoundly altered and modied due to the utilization
(and overexploitation) of forest resources (Rudel et al., 2005). Many of the detrimental anthropogenic impacts on global forests
have taken place in developing countries, directly inuencing as many as 400 million people (Allen and Barnes, 1985) to varying
degrees. According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010, the total area (TA) of forests worldwide is decreasing at a rate of
13 million hectares per yearda trend expected to continue into the near future (FAO, 2010). In addition to deforestation, forest
degradation poses a tremendous threat to the maintenance of ecosystem services (FAO, 2010). In addition, the global consumption
of timber from natural forests generates carbon dioxide accounting for 20% of total fossil fuel emissions and is thus a primary
culprit in the acceleration of global warming (van der Werf et al., 2009). Awareness of global forest cover loss has accelerated efforts
by governments, communities, and international organizations to devise policies to curb the most destructive timber harvesting
practices, such as clear-cutting.
Under the umbrella of climate change mitigation, a set of projects known as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest
degradation (REDD and later REDDþ) have been initiated to foster forest conservation and carbon storage, with a distinct focus on
community livelihoods (Caplow et al., 2011; Groom and Palmer, 2012). These conservation programs employ a variety of inno-
vative policy instruments and have been advocated by researchers and policy-makers alike (Pattanayak et al., 2010; Angelsen, 2009).
Payment for ecosystem services (PES) is the most prominent policy measure in the REDD þtoolbox. PES requires a voluntary trans-
action with well-dened services from buyers to providers who secure the service provision (Wunder, 2008). The REDD þPES
scheme is distinct from other approaches due to its high capital investments and its dual goal of forest conservation/rehabilitation
and rural livelihoods (Groom and Palmer, 2012). Integral to the successful implementation and expansion of large-scale PES
programs is the requisite attention to active monitoring and objective evaluation of their efcacy in ensuring positive social
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ecological outcomes (Ferraro and Pattanayak, 2006). In this regard, the assessment of forest conservation outcomes necessitates
monitoring not only the quantity but also the quality of forest cover as relates to explicitly stated conservation goals. The Application of Remote Sensing to Forest Growth Monitoring
In light of the enormous cost of traditional ground-based assessments of forest cover change, remote sensing has emerged as a key
technology for monitoring forest cover dynamics over large areas (Xie et al., 2008). The abundance of remotely sensed imagery and
products from multiple data archives makes it increasingly tractable to synoptically observe spatiotemporal patterns and processes
of the Earth surface. For example, open access to Landsat imagery has made it possible for researchers to compile current and histor-
ical time series of land cover change (Woodcock et al., 2008), while WorldView-2 (WV-2) data, though costly, enable users to obtain
detailed satellite imagery at submeter resolution (Lillesand and Kiefer, 1994).
One of the most prominent applications of remote sensing is the observation and quantication of large-scale patterns in forest
cover. Remotely sensed data have been utilized to explore the composition and conguration of terrestrial ecosystems of importance
to biodiversity conservation (Horning et al., 2010), forest regeneration and successional processes (Song et al., 2015; Wulder, 1998;
Fuller, 2006), and forest management (Franklin, 2001). Remotely sensed vegetation indicators created from spectral bands of satel-
lite images, like the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), have been widely used in forest mapping efforts (Calera et al.,
2001) and for examining the complexity of canopy structure (Gamon et al., 1995; Soudani et al., 2012). The Tasseled Cap transfor-
mation, which linearly converts the multiband spectral signal of Landsat satellite data into a reduced set of interpretable measures
(e.g., brightness, greenness, and wetness), is another commonly used remotely sensed index of vegetation cover that has proved to be
informative in distinguishing young forests from mature and old-growth ones (Fiorella and Ripple, 1993a; Kauth and Thomas, 1976;
Cohen et al., 1995). For example, Song et al. (2007) simulated the spectral reectance of forest succession, using regression analysis to
model the successional trajectories of Tasseled Cap pixel values. Their results indicate that brightness and greenness performed better
than wetness for tracking forest succession, highlighting the effectiveness of multitemporal Landsat imagery for the monitoring of
large-scale successional processes. However, when characterizing the spectral/temporal trajectories of early successional forests,
several sources of uncertaintydcaused by topography, atmospheric condition, phenology, and sun/view anglesdadd noise to the
NDVI and Tasseled Cap signal, which may hinder the accurate estimation of forest successional stages (Song et al., 2002). In another
study, Fiorella and Ripple (1993b) found a high correlation between the age of Douglas-r stands and the remote sensing-derived
structural index (SI), which can be used to distinguish poorly growing forests from well-regenerated ones. Despite numerous studies
exploring the spectral features of forest succession and regeneration, there has been a paucity of research specically focusing on the
evaluation of forest policy interventions on large-scale forest growth trends using multitemporal remotely sensed imagery. Chinas Forest Policies
In the rst few decades after the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949, unsustainable timber production and the
general overexploitation of forest resources severely compromised the rise of Chinas economy (Rozelle et al., 1997; Zhang and
Song, 2006). By the late 1990s, the impact of a series of natural disasters was exacerbated by a half-century of rampant deforestation
and inadequate soil and water conservation policy, eventually leading to the Yangtze River oods in 1998, which were responsible
for 1320 deaths and 20 billion dollars in damage (Zong and Chen, 2000). In response to these disasters, the Chinese government
adopted a series of new PES forest policies (Liu et al., 2008). Chief among them was the Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program
(CCFP), which aims at soil and water conservation as well as poverty relief (Mullan et al., 2010). Meanwhile, the Chinese
government enhanced another policy instrumentdits nature reserve systemdto prevent logging in large swathes of natural forests
designated as public welfare forests (PWFs).
The CCFP incentivizes farmers to convert croplands on steep slopes or other ecologically sensitive areas to forests (China-State-
Council, 2002). The CCFP was initiated with different payment schemes in two distinct regions based on the opportunity cost of
planting crops: 230 RMB mu
(mu: a traditional area unit used by farmers in China; 1 mu¼1/15 ha) in the Yangtze River
Basin and 160 RMB mu
in the Yellow River Basin. Initial contracts had an 8-year duration, and participating farmers could
renew for another 8-year period at lower compensation rates of 125 RMB mu
and 90 RMB mu
in the Yangtze River
Basin and the Yellow River Basin, respectively. In PWFs, all commercial logging is prohibited, effectively conserving these forests from
most forms of human disturbance. In response to potential adverse economic effects of this new policy on landholders, the central
government compensated households holding PWF land at a rate of 8.75 RMB mu
. Although commercial logging on these
lands is still banned, subsistence uses such as fuelwood and nontimber forest product collection are permitted. These two nationwide
forest programs are unprecedented in the scale and scope of their nancial support from the central government (Liu et al., 2008).
Since the implementation of CCFP and PWF programs, numerous studies have assessed their effectiveness in achieving their
socioeconomic outcomes (Xu et al., 2004; Li et al., 2011; Cao et al., 2010). However, the ecological consequences of these programs
have been insufciently examined as researchers play catch-updin part due to the time lag inherent in the recovery of ecosystem
services for slow-growing forests. Although it is still too early to fully evaluate these forest programssuccess in achieving their water
and soil conservation goals, tracking early growth and canopy development trends in the PWFs and newly established CCFP forest
stands can be of critical importance in gauging their long-term sustainability.
This article examines results of a case study from Tiantangzhai township in Anhui province to evaluate the effectiveness of the
PWF and CCFP forest conservation policies. Our objectives are to (1) create classied maps of forest cover in Tiantangzhai township
40 Evaluating the Effectiveness of Forest Conservation Policies with Multitemporal
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using a time series of remotely sensed imagery from 1992 to 2013, (2) observe the dynamics of natural forest cover before and after
program implementation in 2002 and analyze emerging forest landscape patterns, and nally (3) characterize forest growth trends
and canopy development in PWF and CCFP forest stands, based on changes in their spectral trajectories in multitemporal remotely
sensed imagery. These research objectives are guided by two interrelated questions: (1) In what ways has forest land cover and land
use changed in the study area since the implementation of the CCFP in 2002? (2) What growth trends are observable in PWF and
CCFP forest stands since the implementation of the two programs? We hypothesize that Tiantangzhai township experienced an
expansion in the quantity (areal extent) of natural forest cover as well as an increase in the quality (successional canopy develop-
ment) of those forests since policy implementation.
9.05.2 Study Area, Data, and Methods Study Area
The study area encompasses Tiantangzhai township,located in the eastern part of the Dabieshan Mountain in western Anhui province,
China (Fig. 1). The abundantly forested township spans an area of 28,914 ha and lies at an elevation ranging from 300 to 1700 m
above sea level. With mild weather and annual rainfall averaging 1350 mm, Tiantangzhais climate is conducive to high vegetative
productivity. Despite its relative proximity to large cities, its extreme topography and poorly developed transportation system have
made it geographically inaccessible and sparsely populated, with a rural population of only 17,000 (Yang et al., 2009). Tiantangzhais
historical remoteness is partly responsible for the lack of widespread anthropogenic impact on the regions forests and has helped
ensure the preservation of the integrity of its natural ecosystem. Despite this, local resource extraction such as timber harvest and
animal hunting has partly undermined larger scale environmental protection efforts by the turn of the 21st century.
In 1998, the Tiantangzhai region was established as a national nature reserve, and all natural forests were designated as PWF. The
goal of this program was to protect PWFs from human interference, especially timber and wild animal resource extraction. In 2002,
the central government implemented the CCFP, with nearly 20% of all households in Tiantangzhai participating in the program
within the rst year. Data Acquisition and Preprocessing
Three Landsat images covering the areal extent of the study area were acquired corresponding to the dates Oct. 18, 1992 (Landsat 5
TM), Oct. 6, 2002 (Landsat 7 ETM þ), and Oct. 12, 2013 (Landsat 8 OLI). One high spatial resolution WV-2 image from 2013 was
Fig. 1 Study area: Tiantangzhai township in Anhui, China.
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also acquired, primarily for reference and analysis of CCFP stands for which Landsat imagery is too coarse (Table 1). Prior to the
analysis, all Landsat images were atmospherically corrected using simple dark object subtraction (DOS3), converting digital number
(DN) values to surface reectance (Song, 2001). In addition, a set of vegetation indexes were generated from the atmospherically
corrected Landsat images and added to the spectral bands (Table 2). A digital elevation model at 30 m resolution was obtained from
the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for the area and was geographically corrected to align with pixels in the Landsat imagery
to generate elevation, slope, and topographic wetness index (TWI) values (Moore et al., 1991; Beven and Kirkby, 1979)(Table 2).
Ancillary data used in the analysis also include a map provided by the Tiantangzhai forestry station, delineating the extent of each
CCFP forest stand within the township. Classication of Imagery and CCFP Forest Stand Delineation
Inference of forest growth and development trends is based on an analysis of multitemporal land cover maps classied from Landsat
imagery. Eight land cover types were dened in the study area for classication: developed area (mainly impervious surfaces), decid-
uous forests, coniferous forests, mixed forests (including both deciduous and coniferous), water, cropland (paddy and dry crop-
land), barren land (including exposed rock, soil, and sand), and grassland. Training data for the classication of the 2013
Landsat image were obtained from two data sources: 98 training sites collected using Global Positioning System units in the eld
during the summer of 2013 and a 2 m resolution WV-2 image from that same year. We randomly selected and reserved 20% of these
training sites for accuracy assessment for the classication of the 2013 Landsat reference map.
To create the reference map from the 2013 Landsat image, a random forest (RF) classier was trained from the WV-2 image. The RF
classier is an ensemble of tree classiers, where each tree casts an unweighted vote for the prediction of unknown pixels (Breiman,
2001). In this study, each tree was grown with a randomized subset of four features, and 1000 trees were generated to create the
ensemble from which the nal classication could be inferred based on the majority vote of all trees (Pal, 2005). Predictors used
to train the RF model include spectral reectance, vegetation indexes, and topographic indexes (see Table 2). Unlike the 2013 imagery,
which was trained with temporally consistent high-resolution reference imagery and eld data, training data for the 1992 and 2002
images were not available. To circumvent this shortcoming, training data corresponding to the historical Landsat images (1992 and
2002) were generated algorithmically via the automatic adaptive signature generation (AASG) method (Gray and Song, 2013).
The AASG algorithm is based on the assumption that over a sufciently large area, the majority of land cover types will not
change, and thus, class signatures can be derived independently from stable locations with respect to land cover for each image
in a time series (Li et al., 2015; Stow et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2014). Thus, land cover training sites derived from stable locations
and labeled according to an existing land cover map are consistent despite radiometric variation between dates due to atmospheric
effects, varying irradiance, and other radiometric effects (Fig. 2). Stable sites are selected based on a histogram of the single-band
difference of the two images, with stable sites expected to be located around the mean of the image difference histogram and class
changes most likely falling within the tails of the distribution (Fig. 3). Stable pixels are identied as those within a certain interval
around the histogram mean, dened as m
, where m
and s
are the mean and standard deviation of the difference values,
respectively, and cis a user-dened constant determining the width of the interval. Due to the potential for image misregistration
Table 1 Satellite imagery acquired for the year of 1992, 2002, and 2013
Year Date Satellite Sensor Multispectral resolution (m) Panchromatic resolution (m)
1992 Oct. 18 Landsat 5 TM 30 15
2002 Oct. 6 Landsat 7 ETM þ30 15
2013 Oct. 12 Landsat 8 OLI 30 15
2013 Jul. 13 WorldView-2 - 2 0.5
Landsat imagery corresponds to path/row: 122/38.
Table 2 Description of vegetation and topographic indexes
Index Measures
Vegetation indexes
Simple ratio (SR) (Hall et al., 1995) Green vegetation
Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) (Purevdorj et al., 1998) Green vegetation
Structural index (SI) (Fiorella and Ripple, 1993a) Canopy structure
Normalized difference water index (NDWI) (Gao, 1996) Vegetation water content in leaves
Enhanced vegetation index (EVI) (Jiang et al., 2008) Vegetation structure
Topographic indexes
Elevation (m)
Slope (degree)
Topographic wetness index (TWI) (Beven and Kirkby, 1979) Soil moisture
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and edge effects especially along class boundaries in multitemporal imagery, a class-specic erode lter based on a user-dened
kernel was employed to ensure that only core pixels were retained among the m
potential stable sites. After the determination
of stable sites, class labels for stable pixels in the target image can be imputed directly from the corresponding pixels in the reference
imagery and used to generate a unique spectral prole for classes in the target image.
Because forests were the dominant land cover class in Tiantangzhai township between 1992 and 2013, an image difference histo-
gram based on NDVI values, rather than the red or near-infrared (NIR) band, was judged appropriate. Furthermore, a class-specic
rather than global cparameter was chosen to consider the specic distributions of each class (Dannenberg et al., 2015). As such, the
cparameter was determined so that 1000 pixels for each class would be included in the interval (m
) of the histogram. When
the total number of pixels was smaller than 1000, all the pixels within the interval were selected.
Due to the challenge inherent in distinguishing CCFP forests from natural forests solely based on spectral information from
a single WV-2 image, CCFP forest stands were manually delineated in the WV-2 image. This classication was guided by a map ob-
tained from the Tiantangzhai township forest station with locations of the spatial extent of CCFP forest stands. Technicians from the
forest station provided assistance in employing this map to identify CCFP patches in the WV-2 image. In all, 225 CCFP forest stands
were delineated and overlaid onto the Landsat and WV-2 images. Growth Trends of Natural Forests and CCFP Forest Stands
Growth trends in PWF and CCFP forests were inferred from remotely sensed forest development indexes based on changes in the
distribution of Tasseled Cap values, a linear matrix transformation of spectral bands in Landsat imagery (Crist, 1985). The Tasseled
Fig. 2 Workow for the AASG method (taken from Gray, J. and Song, C. (2013). Consistent classication of image time series with automatic
adaptive signature generalization. Remote Sensing of Environment 134, 333341). The reference image (Image 1) was classied using training
data from a WV-2 image and ground points to produce the classication map (Classied Map 1). Training sites for the target image (Image 2) were
automatically derived from stable pixels identied by image differencing and then used to generate a classication of the target image (Classied
Map 2) based on its automatically derived, adapted spectral signature.
Fig. 3 Selection of the cparameter for one class. If the scene extent covers a sufciently large area and the majority of the pixels are stable, the
histogram of single-band differences from the two images assumes a normal distribution. After application of a spatial erode function to ensure
pixels emanate from core areas within particular classes, stable pixels are selected that fall within the range of the mean of the histogram (hatched
area). The symbols m
and s
denote the mean and standard deviation of the difference values, respectively.
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Cap transformation derives its name from the fact that when transformed pixel values are plotted in a two-dimensional brightness
greenness space (BG space), the emergent pattern of scattered pixels resembles that of a Tasseled Cap (Crist and Cicone, 1984). The
Tasseled Cap transformation has been used widely for monitoring forest growth and development partly because the resulting trans-
formed indexes can be readily interpreted with biophysical meanings, such as brightness, greenness, and wetness (Cohen et al.,
1995; Song et al., 2002; Jakubauskas, 1996). This analysis focuses on the rst two component axes of the Tasseled Capdbrightness
(B) and greenness (G). To allow for cross compatibility between images, image values in BG space were standardized to z-scores.
Pixels in BG space correctly classied as forest are generally observed to be located above other classes on the vertical axis (G) and
form an upper boundary of all points, regarded as the canopy closure line (CCL) (Figs. 46). To identify the CCL in BG space, the
greenness axis was segmented into vertical intervals starting from the point with the lowest brightness value to that with the highest
greenness value. Within each vertical segment, the individual point with the lowest brightness value was selected as a canopy closure
point. A linear trend line based on canopy closure points was then t to identify the slope of the CCL. The intercept of the CCL was
determined by shifting the trend line so that it intersects the canopy closure point furthest from the trend line (point e). In this way,
all residual points equal or fall below the CCL on the greenness axis (Fig. 4). The upper and lower extremities of the CCL are deter-
mined by the maximum and minimum values of all pixels projected onto the CCL (e.g., points c0and b0in Fig. 5). In general, forest
pixels track the lower bound of the CCL, while other land cover types are dispersed far away from it (Fig. 6).
The temporal trend of pixel values in BG space is informative for assessing canopy development (Song et al., 2007). For
example, when a forest stand has just reached canopy closure, its trees are relatively small and uniform in size. In this case, larger
Fig. 4 The canopy closure line (CCL) is dened based on canopy closure points in the brightnessgreenness (BG) space of the Tasseled Cap
transformation. Points along the dashed line depict the outer edge of the image pixel point cloud. The greenness axis is divided into user-dened
vertical segments from f(which represents the lowest brightness value) to n(which has the highest greenness value). Pixels with the lowest bright-
ness values falling within each vertical greenness segment are called canopy closure points (e.g., solid points:f,g,e,m, and n) and are linearly
regressed to dene the CCL (solid line). Among all the pixel points above the trend line (dashed line), ehas the largest perpendicular distance to the
trend line. Therefore, the CCL (solid line)isdened by maintaining the slope of the trend line, but modifying its intercept until it intersects e.As
a result, eis the only pixel in the point cloud that lies on the CCL.
Fig. 5 Key components of the brightnessgreenness (BG) space used for forest development indexes. Point ais the pixel with the largest perpen-
dicular distance to the CCL; thus, d
¼|aa0|. The slope of the CCL is determined by the linear trend line of canopy closure points, while the inter-
cept is set by shifting the trend line to go through e(e0) so all the other canopy closure points fall below it. The vertical projection of points band c
(b0and c0)dene the upper and lower bounds of the CCL, respectively, with length L¼|c0b0|. For the ith pixel x,d
¼|xx0| and L
¼|x0b0|. Note that
all primes refer to the vertical point projection on the CCL of corresponding points.
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brightness and greenness values, located at the upper end of the CCL, would be expected (Song et al., 2002). As a stand continues to
grow and develop, individual crowns get larger, while other stems are shaded out and eventually succumb to density-dependent
mortality (Peet and Christensen, 1987). The concomitant emergence of large canopy crowns increases canopy shadows. The large
canopy shadows of these more mature forests manifest as lower brightness and greenness pixel values, which are located more
toward the lower end of the CCL compared with younger continuous canopy stands (Song et al., 2007).
Three indexes were generated to dene a pixels forest growth status based on its position relative to other pixels in the BG
space: the canopy closure index (CCI), the maturity index (MI), and the synergistic successional index (SSI) (see Fig. 5 for a visual
depiction of key variables). The CCI is estimated based on the perpendicular distance of a forest pixel to the CCL and is calculated as
CI ¼dmax di
where d
is the distance from the furthest forest pixel in BG space from the CCL and d
is the distance of the ith pixel to the
, the closer the pixel is to CCL and the more likely it is to correspond to a closed canopy forest
The MI measures the relative developmental stage of a forest within a given image. It represents the location of a pixels projec-
tion onto the CCL and is calculated as
MI ¼Li;upper
where L
i, upper
is the length of the CCL segment between the upper extremity of the CCL and the location of the ith pixels projection
onto the CCL and Lis the total length of the CCL. In general, larger MI values are indicative of more mature forests.
The SSI was calculated as the product of these two indexes:
SSI ¼dmax di
The SSI integrates the status of both canopy closure and maturity information. Generally, larger SSI values correspond to forest
pixels closer to the old-growth forest stage, while lower values are indicative of forests in an early successional stage. Index values of
CI, MI, and SSI all range from 0 to 1. Landscape Pattern Analysis
During the past few decades, numerous landscape pattern metrics have been proposed for analyzing the composition and cong-
uration of landscape structure and spatial pattern (Forman and Godron, 1986). A key concept in landscape ecology is the patch,
which is dened as a homogenous area distinct from its surrounding in nature or appearance (Kim et al., 2014). Changes in the
patchiness of landscape structure triggered by land coverland use change have a strong inuence on fragmentation, biodiversity,
and ecosystem function (Wu, 2006; Fahrig, 2003). In this study, forest landscape pattern was analyzed for the postimplementation
period of the two forest programs, using the 2013 WV-2 image and delineated CCFP stands. We selected several predened class-
level metrics for the analysis (Table 3): TA of all patches, patch density (PD), edge density (ED), mean patch area (MPA), and mean
Fig. 6 Scatterplot depicting cover classes in standardized BG space in the 2013 Landsat 8 OLI image. Mean values of each class are symbolized as
crosses. The barren land class is not shown due to its small proportion within the overall area.
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perimeter area ratio (MPAR) (Gustafson, 1998; ONeill et al., 1988). Calculated landscape metrics were used to compare landscape
patterns in 2013 with a simulated landscape where CCFP stands were excluded, to infer the specic effect of the establishment of
CCFP stands on landscape structure. This analysis highlights not just the inclusion of new forest areas but the specic development
status of each of the CCFP stands based on the previously described forest development indexes.
Manually delineated CCFP forest stands were grouped into three levels based on their SSI values in the most recent period
(200213). Stands with an SSI difference (i.e., SSI
) above one standard deviation of all CCFP stands were labeled
as well-developed stands, stands within one standard deviation of the mean were labeled as moderately developed, while those
below one standard deviation were labeled as poorly developed (Fig. 7). Well- and moderately developed stands are characterized
by high-density canopy, while poorly developed stands have a more open canopy and are composed of a high proportion of
exposed ground shrubs and grasses instead of trees. A linear regression model was employed to evaluate the correlation between
these derived forest indexes and the vegetation indexes NDVI, SI, and enhanced vegetation index (EVI). In addition, topographic
and vegetation indexes were extracted to characterize the relationship between topographic conditions and CCFP forest stands
in different successional stages.
9.05.3 Results Land Cover, Land Use, and Forest Landscape Pattern Change
Classied maps of the three Landsat images in the time series depict land cover patterns in 1992, 2002, and 2013 (Fig. 8). Based on
a validation dataset consisting of 20% of the training points derived from eld data and WV-2 imagery, the overall accuracy for the
2013 reference classication is 93%, with a kappa coefcient of 0.91 (see Table 4 for a confusion matrix). From 1992 to 2002, the
overall area of forest cover in the region was stable, but from 2002 to 2013, it increased by 13.6%. Total cropland area likewise
remained stable in the decade before the CCFP, followed by a decline of 9.1% between 2002 and 2013, partially due to the conver-
sion of cropland to forest.
In order to infer the extent to which the establishment of CCFP stands contributed to forest cover and connectivity by 2013, we
compared the landscape structural metrics between two groups: all forests excluding CCFP stands versus all forests combined. When
withholding CCFP forests, the landscape conguration of the study area in 2013 is signicantly different than when all forests are
retained (Fig. 9). While the inclusion of CCFP forests only has a limited impact on the TA of all forest patches (þ0.2%), it leads to
a 2.6% decline in PD and a 1.4% decline in ED compared with when they are excluded, indicating net forest aggregation when
including the inuence of CCFP stands. At the same time, the inclusion of CCFP forest stands increases the MPA (3.6%) and reduces
the mean perimeter to area ratio (2.29%) compared with when they were withheld, indicating that forest patches became slightly
less fragmented and isolated with the addition of CCFP stands.
Table 3 Landscape metrics
Metrics Interpretation
Total area (TA) (Gustafson, 1998) Total area (m
) for patch type i
Patch density (PD) (ONeill et al., 1988) Number of patches of patch type idivided by the total
landscape area (m
Edge density (ED) (McGarigal and McComb, 1995) Sum of the lengths (m) of all edge segments of patch type
i, divided by the total landscape area (m
Mean patch area (MPA) (ONeill et al., 1988) Average area (m
) of patch type i
Mean perimeter area ratio (MPAR)
(Helzer and Jelinski, 1999)
Mean patch perimeter (m) to area (m
) ratio
for patch type i
Fig. 7 Examples of CCFP forest stands at three levels of development according to their SSI values: (A) well developed, (B) moderately developed,
and (C) poorly developed. The green polygons represent the boundary of the forest stands (reported by Tiantangzhai forestry station) within a ne
spatial resolution WV-2 image.
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Fig. 8 Land cover maps of the Tiantangzhai township in 1992, 2002, and 2013.
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Author's personal copy Spectral/Temporal Trajectories in Forest Cover Spatial–temporal patterns in all land cover classes
The scatterplot of the Tasseled Cap transformation of all pixels from the 2013 Landsat 8 OLI image conrms expectations that pixels
corresponding to forest cover are spread linearly along the left side of the Tasseled Cap, with relatively higher greenness values than
those from other classes (Fig. 6). Pixels classied as deciduous forest (light green) tend to have higher brightness and greenness
values, while coniferous forests (dark green) tend to show lower brightness and greenness values. Mixed forests are located at an
intermediate location between the two. While the grassland class has relatively higher brightness values but lower greenness values
compared with those of forest pixels, cropland pixels have lower brightness and greenness compared with forest and grassland
classes. Heterogeneity in the types of cover (and thus the spectral signature) labeled as developed area results in high variance in
the spread of points in the standardized BG space, though pixels generally tend toward high brightness and low greenness values.
Similar scene-wide spectral patterns in the Tasseled Cap transformations are observed in the 1992 Landsat 5 TM image and the 2002
Landsat 7 ETMþimage (not shown).
Temporal trajectories of the mean brightness and greenness values of semantically stable forest pixels indicate that the mixed
forest class had the most stable spectral signature through the two decades (Fig. 10). The temporal trajectory of deciduous forests
is similar to that of the mixed forests in that both can be characterized by increasing brightness and greenness values, though the two
are distinct from that of coniferous forests, where a net decrease in brightness and greenness values was observed. Despite temporal
changes in the spectra of stable classes, the general trajectory of mean pixel values supports the observation of a nonlinear spectral
trajectory of pixels in BG space. Spectral/temporal trajectories of remotely sensed forest development indexes
In general, change vectors for CCI and SSI values show a trend of net canopy aggradation for all forests during the 200213 period
(Fig. 11). Temporal trends in CCI values exhibit a decline from 1992 to 2002, followed by a rapid increase coinciding with the
advent of the CCFP. MI values, on the other hand, exhibit a at trajectory from 1992 to 2013. The product of these two indexes,
Table 4 Confusion matrix
Developed area Water Deciduous Coniferous Mixed Cropland Barren land Grassland User’s accuracy
Developed 364 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0.99
Water 0 238 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.00
Deciduous 0 0 67 6 2 0 0 3 0.86
Coniferous 0 0 6 108 9 0 0 0 0.88
Mixed 0 0 5 8 98 0 0 4 0.85
Cropland 6 0 0 0 6 274 0 4 0.94
Barren land 3 0 2 4 2 2 72 2 0.83
Grassland 0 0 0 0 3 9 1 62 0.83
Producers accuracy 0.98 1.00 0.84 0.86 0.82 0.95 0.99 0.83 0.93
Fig. 9 Percentage change in landscape metric values for forest cover of natural forests when CCFP stands are excluded compared with all forests
when CCFP forest stands are retained. TA, total area of all patches; PD, patch density; ED, edge density; MPA, mean patch area; MPAR, mean perim-
eter area ratio.
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Fig. 10 Temporal trajectories of semantically stable classes in BG space.
Fig. 11 Temporal change in canopy closure index (CCI), maturity index (MI), and synergistic successional index (SSI) values for deciduous forests,
coniferous forests, mixed forests, and all forests.
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the SSI, follows an intermediate trajectory between the CCI and MI trends that is marked by a distinct increase after 2002. Forest
pixels in the 2013 image exhibit higher SSI values than those from images of 1992 and 2002, especially toward the lower left corner
of the pixel point cloud, which is composed primarily of coniferous cover pixels (Fig. 12). As brightness and greenness values
increase, SSI values decrease as points approach the upper end of the CCL, where pixels corresponding to recently closed canopy
Fig. 12 Scatterplot of SSI pixel values for all forests in 1992, 2002, and 2013 in standardized BG space.
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Fig. 13 Scatterplot of SSI values in the 2013 Landsat OLI image split by forest type.
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stands are located. Pixels in the 1992 and 2002 images are more dispersed and extend farther from the CCL compared with those in
the 2013 image, resulting in forest pixels cumulatively possessing higher SSI values in 2013. Scatterplots of SSI values in the 2013
Landsat OLI image show that deciduous forest, which includes CCFP forests, tend to have relatively low SSI values, while coniferous
forest have more pixels with higher SSI values than the deciduous and mixed categories (Fig. 13). Growth Trends in CCFP Forest Stands Based on Remotely Sensed Forest Development Indexes Temporal trajectories of CCFP forest stands
In total, 225 CCFP forest stands approved by the Tiantangzhai township forest station were manually delineated in the WV-2 image.
From 1992 to 2002, the temporal trajectory in standardized BG space of the mean pixel values of each of the CCFP forest sites
exhibited a distinct trend of increasing greenness and stable brightness values (Fig. 14). After 2002 and the implementation of
the CCFP, the trajectory of CCFP pixels in BG space changes course, becoming slightly less green and substantially less bright
as CCFP stands were established.
After 2002, the conversion from croplands to forests had a strong inuence on CCI values for all CCFP stands. Temporal changes
in the remotely sensed forest development indexes show increases in CCI and SSI values and a slight decrease for MI values (Fig. 15).
Scatterplots representing the mean of each CCFP forest stand in BG space in 2002 and 2013 exhibit a similar pattern to those
observed for temporal changes in natural forests (Fig. 12), including less dispersion, higher SSI values, and a tighter t to the
CCL in 2013 compared with 2002 (Fig. 16). Comparison of vegetation indexes for CCFP forest stands
The SI, a ratio of TM or ETM þbands 4 and 5, can be used as an indicator of canopy structure (Fiorella and Ripple, 1993a). The
correlation between CCI, MI, and SSI and SI is generally positive, though the magnitude of correlation varies greatly (Fig. 17).
Fig. 14 Temporal trajectory of mean brightness and greenness pixel values of mean values for all CCFP forest stands.
Fig. 15 Temporal change of mean CCI, MI, and SSI pixel values for all CCFP forest stands. Because CCFP forest stands were cropland before the
implementation of the CCFP, forest indexes are not applicable before 2002.
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SI was found to have a signicant, positive relationship with CCI (p<0.05), but was nonsignicant when regressed against MI
(p¼0.87). The SI saturates as the SSI increases to 0.3da result of the negative relationship between SI and MI. When partitioned
by the increase of SSI (see section Landscape Pattern Analysis), 84% of the CCFP forest stands that were categorized as either well-
or moderately developed all exhibited an increase in NDVI, NDWI, EVI, and SI values (Fig. 18). Well- and moderately developed
CCFP forests are mainly located in areas of lower elevation (around 610 m) compared with poorly developed stands, which tend to
be situated on shallower slopes (Fig. 19).
9.05.4 Discussion Land Cover Classication and Change Detection
Land parcels in the mountainous region are generally less productive for agriculture at higher elevations. Thus, farmers gradually shifted
from farming to other nonfarming activities in these parcels, triggering land abandonment biased toward higher elevations in the late
1990s (De Brauw et al., 2002; Tao et al., 2003). After the implementation of the CCFP, abandoned lands located in ecologically sensitive
areas and those on steep, higher elevation slopes were mostly likely to qualify for enrollment in the CCFP. Thus, the increase in the
grassland class seen in this analysis before 2002 may be attributed to patterns of cropland abandonment followed by an increase in
forest cover after they were converted to forest during the postimplementation period of 200213. Much of this enlargement in forest
area consists of newly planted deciduous forests as participating households choose to plant ecological trees (e.g., maple) or economic
trees (e.g., pecan or walnut) following the CCFP incentive scheme (Uchida et al., 2005). These ndings conrm our hypothesis that after
the implementation of the CCFP and PWF programs, total forest area increased signicantly (14%) in the study area.
Fig. 16 Scatterplot of mean SSI pixel values for each CCFP forest stand in 2002 and 2013; CCLdsolid line.
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Landscape structural analysis revealed that CCFP forests contributed only slightly to the total increase of forest cover by 2013.
This is partly due to the modest extent of the 225 stands in comparison with the total study area, as well as the fact that some CCFP
stands may not have beneted from proper management by farmers, hindering the aggregation of forest patches throughout the
landscape. Though the landscape analysis indicates only slight changes to landscape structure due to the inclusion of CCFP stands,
results nonetheless show that the forest landscape became less fragmented, and patches became less isolated. This trend was
observed for all forests combined, as well as for each individual forest category (deciduous, coniferous, and mixed). Temporal Trajectories and Growth Trend of Natural Forests and CCFP Stands
The Tasseled Cap transformation is a data reduction method that produces interpretable measures of spectral features in Landsat
imagery that perform well for image classication (Fiorella and Ripple, 1993b; Dymond et al., 2002). For the cropland class, reec-
tance of the bright soil background contributes to higher brightness values, which are only slightly moderated by grass reectance. In
closed canopy forest classes, the spectral signature emanates mainly from the upper canopy rather than the soil background and thus
exhibits higher greenness values. Along the CCL, both greenness and brightness values for forest pixels decrease with succession
because of mutual shading caused by gap-crown pattern formation. We found that brightness and greenness values for coniferous
forests decreased during 200213, suggesting mature (mainly coniferous) forests continue to grow after canopy closure. However,
both brightness and greenness values for mixed and deciduous forests increased after the CCFP implementation, a result of the
Fig. 17 Linear regression of the structural index (reectance ratio of TM or ETM þband 4/band 5) compared with CCI, MI, and SSI values. Points
represent the mean value of each CCFP forest stand in 2013.
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emergence of deciduous forests at the establishment stage, where bright soil background is still a factor in pixel-wise reectance
characteristics. For cropland that was stable between dates (i.e., that was neither abandoned nor converted to CCFP stands),
observed changes in reectance may be the result of land use change, such as the conversion of paddy land to dryland, or due
to the planting of alternative crops with different spectralphenological signals (Wang and Maclaren, 2012).
In addition to tracking temporal changes in natural forest area, the CCI, MI, and SSI forest development indexes provide infor-
mation on how forest canopies are developing at the stand scale. The scene-wide mean CCI experienced its greatest increase after
2002 compared with the decade before the implementation of the CCFP and PWF programs, indicating a general landscape-wide
trend toward canopy closure in established forests. The observation of lower MI values for deciduous forests compared with conif-
erous forests suggests that deciduous forests (including CCFP forest stands) tend to be at an earlier successional stage and were still
establishing after conversion from grassland and cropland. Though the increase in SSI for all forests after 2002 is indicative of overall
successional development for natural forests in the study area, its increase was only slightddue partly to the short time frame of this
11-year analysis. Temporal patterns of mean CCI, MI, and SSI values for CCFP forest stands are similar to those observed in natural
Fig. 18 The differences (D) in mean values of NDVI, NDWI, EVI, and SI of CCFP forest stands between 2002 and 2013, grouped by the level of
CCFP forest development.
Fig. 19 Proportional distributions of elevation and slope for poorly, moderately, and well-developed CCFP forest stands.
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forests. The increase of SSI and CCI indicates increased density in CCFP canopies, while the stable MI trend reects the fact that
CCFP forests are still in an establishment stage and will need several decades before reaching maturity. Since priority in CCFP enroll-
ment is given to land parcels in ecologically sensitive areas such as areas with steep slope and thus high risk of soil erosion (Liu et al.,
1994), elevation and slope of the CCFP parcels likewise play an important role in forest management by participating households.
Based on their SSI values, well-developed CCFP forest stands are more likely to be located in areas of lower elevation and moderate
slope. Such topographic conditions are associated with the accessibility of forest stands to farmers, as residents tend to be settled
near the township center at lower elevations. As 84% of CCFP forest stands fall into the either well-developed or moderately devel-
oped level, overall results conrm a positive growth trend upon the implementation of the CCFP. Looking forward, the success of
these early successional CCFP will hinge upon management decisions in the stand establishment stage because only by ensuring the
early survival of CCFP forests can participating households receive compensation from the central government (Xu et al., 2010).
Our analysis corroborates results from other studies that show that CCFP stands in proximity to these participating households
have tended to have received better managementdessential to the young forests at the early growing stage (Bennett et al., 2014).
9.05.5 Conclusions
The CCFP is the largest reforestation program in China and among the largest worldwide (Bennett, 2008). According to the Chinese
government, the main objective of these new forest policies is for ecosystem service provision, especially soil and water conservation
(Liu et al., 2008). Based on ofcial statistics, the Chinese government appears to have accomplished these goals based solely on the
increase in total forest area (SFA, 2013). However, reported statistics are not convincing without an accurate accounting of actual
landscape forest development. In this study, we employ multitemporal remote sensing analysis to infer the net effect of the CCFP
and the PWF forest policies in Tiantangzhai township, Anhui, China. Our results indicate that between 2002 and 2013, substantial
land cover changes took place following the implementation of these two programs compared with the decade before. Overall,
natural forests increased by 14% from 2002 to 2013, while the area of cropland declined by 9%. This increase in total forest cover
likewise resulted in a decline in landscape-wide fragmentation as natural forests received protection and CCFP forest stands were
established. CCFP forest stands located in proximity to managing households and occurring in favorable topographic positions
experienced accelerated canopy structural development.
In addition to ndings concerning the change in the quantity of forest cover extent based on Landsat time series change detection
analysis over the entire 20-year period and landscape structural analysis comparing the effect with and without the inclusion of
CCFP forests by 2013, we establish three new remotely sensed forest development indexes to assess the quality of those new forests.
Specically, we developed the CCI, the MI, and the SSI to quantify remotely sensed forest canopy development characteristics based
on pixel proximity to the CCL in the BG space of the Tasseled Cap transformation. Results indicate that temporal trends in CI and
SSI values over the entire study area exhibit a decline from 1992 to 2002, followed by an increase with the advent of the CCFP and
PWF. These ndings indicate net forest canopy development in the study area characterized by an increase in canopy density in
younger forests as well as increasing canopy complexity in mature forests. Taken together, these results demonstrate the utility
of the CI, MI, and SSI forest development indexes for tracking landscape-scale successional processes and conrm our hypothesis
that the study area exhibited signs of increasing quantity (areal extent) and quality (canopy development) of forest cover following
the implementation of the CCFP and PWF forest policies.
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant No. DEB-1313756).
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58 Evaluating the Effectiveness of Forest Conservation Policies with Multitemporal
Comprehensive Remote Sensing, First Edition, 2018, 39–58
Author's personal copy
... A major challenge that the Chinese policy-makers face is the sustainability of the PES programs. These forest restoration and conservation programs significantly increased China's forest cover and enhanced water and soil conservation (Liu et al. 2008;Bennett et al. 2014;Deng et al. 2014;Zhang et al. 2018a). A secondary goal of these programs is poverty alleviation, since the affected croplands and forests generally belong to low-income households (Song et al. 2014). ...
... The EWFP has no effect on farm labor because it does not involve cropland retirement. Thus, in addition to its direct effect on increasing household income, EWFP payments may facilitate forest resource (e.g., fuelwood, mushrooms, herbal medicines) regeneration (Zhang et al. 2018a), which may alleviate difficult living conditions, reducing motives to out-migrate. Thus, the EWFP subsidy tends to partially offset the effects of the CCFP incentivizing people to outmigrate. ...
... Once the PES subsidies end, will farmers revert to previous behaviors, including cutting down the new young forests to restore their land for cultivation (if the CCFP is discontinued) and selling timber for cash (if the EWFP is discontinued)? Since remittances from former household members who migrated away constitute nearly a third of mean household incomes in Tiantangzhai (Zhang 2017), understanding the factors that affect individual out-migration as a household livelihood strategy is essential for understanding the sustainability of the forest conservation and restoration programs, where they have been observed to have clear environmental success in China (Liu et al. 2008;Lu et al. 2018;Zhang et al. 2018a). ...
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Rural-to-urban migration has been a hallmark of economic development in China and other developing countries and can have profound socio-economic and ecological implications. This study seeks to understand the impacts on this migration of two large payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs implemented by the Chinese Government: the Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program (CCFP) and the Ecological Welfare Forest Program (EWFP). The primary goal of these PES programs is environmental conservation with poverty alleviation as the secondary goal. We use a full model of the factors affecting rural out-migration at the individual, household, and community levels to investigate how these PES programs have influenced out-migration in a mountainous rural area of Anhui, China. Results show that the CCFP facilitates out-migration, while the EWFP overall discourages it, thereby somewhat offsetting the effects of the CCFP. Out-migration is also shown to be affected by a number of other individual, household, and community characteristics. The results are useful for designing concurrent PES programs in the future aiming at both environmental conservation and livelihood improvement in not only China but also other developing countries.
... The residential zone hosts Tiantangzhai Township, covering an extent of 189 km 2 . The terrain has a typical mountainous topography (elevation: 363-1729 m) with a landscape of prevalent natural forests (Han et al., 2011;Zhang et al., 2018b). The township consists of seven administrative villages with varying economic conditions and 165 resident groups that used to cultivate cropland together. ...
... Households form resident groups with group IDs identifiable for defining neighboring households during the model simulation. A classified land use and land cover map (Zhang et al., 2018b) facilitates the assignment of household locations to the built-up areas. ...
Human-environment interactions drive the land-use dynamics of the terrestrial surface. Worldwide, land-based environmental conservation efforts and agricultural preservation regulations are often concurrent. Complex social-ecological feedback within the coupled natural and human systems nevertheless confounds their effects. Drawing on population-level data for a township encompassed by a national nature reserve, this study applies a spatially explicit agent-based model to understand human-environment interrelationships with household land-use decisions about cropland abandonment restricted by the agricultural preservation rule. Results show that labor migration and cropland abandonment involve feedback loops that exhibit nonlinear effects. The availability of household labor and the amount of cultivated land mediate these effects. The land-use decisions of the farm households are sensitive to the relaxation of the abandonment restriction. The prevalence of cropland abandonment in extent and size increases prominently as the restriction rule begins to relax. The model shows a clearly emerging spatial pattern of an increasing likelihood of cropland abandonment with the relaxed restriction. Abandonment is more likely on dryland parcels and parcels at higher elevations, steeper slopes, and in proximity to forest areas. The shifted distributions of cropland parcels by their biophysical and geographical features from the baseline scenario (full restriction) to the experimental scenario (complete relaxation) also demonstrate these trends. Targeting cropland parcels bearing high risks of abandonment can improve the cost-effectiveness of implementing forest restoration policies while prioritizing those with low risks for agricultural stabilization. The agent-based model is useful for explaining the underlying drivers of land change involving human decision-making. It also suggests implications for balancing trade-offs between environmental conservation and agricultural production.
... We also calculated the Euclidean distances of each parcel to the nearest edges of both natural forests (i.e. EWFP forests) and CCFP forests classified based on satellite images (Zhang et al., 2018). The natural forests were classified using the Random Forest algorithm based on a 2002 Landsat ETM+ image, which was before the implementation of the CCFP (see details in Zhang et al., 2018). ...
... EWFP forests) and CCFP forests classified based on satellite images (Zhang et al., 2018). The natural forests were classified using the Random Forest algorithm based on a 2002 Landsat ETM+ image, which was before the implementation of the CCFP (see details in Zhang et al., 2018). The CCFP forest stands were identified based on the topographic maps provided by Tiantangzhai Forestry Station. ...
Cropland abandonment has emerged as a common phenomenon in land use transitions. Both cropland abandonment and Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs can facilitate the provision of ecosystem services. However, the relationship between cropland abandonment and PES programs remains poorly understood. China has recently undergone considerable cropland abandonment in mountainous areas. Meanwhile, China adopted a series of forest conservation and restoration policies under the scheme of PES starting in the late 1990s. In this study, we track the temporal trend of cropland abandonment under China's two PES programs, Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program (CCFP) and Ecological Welfare Forest Program (EWFP), in Tiantangzhai Township, Anhui Province. We use a random-coefficients logistic regression model to examine the roles that these two PES programs, together with other factors, played in cropland abandonment. Results indicate that: 1) the overall cropland abandonment rates for the CCFP-participating households were lower than those for the non-participants in the years immediately after the implementation of the CCFP, but there was an acceleration of cropland abandonment by the CCFP participants afterwards, leading to the convergence of cropland abandonment rates between the two types of households. 2) Although CCFP payment did not have a long-term effect on cropland abandonment, a larger amount of EWFP payment significantly increased the likelihood of cropland abandonment. 3) Land parcel biophysical characteristics that facilitated cropland abandonment include proximity to EWFP and CCFP forests, poor accessibility and unfavorable topographic positions, and 4) among household socioeconomic conditions, poor farm labor availability and high proportion of local off-farm income in total gross income increased the likelihood of cropland abandonment, while owning domestic animals decreased the likelihood of abandoning cropland. EWFP cash compensation (socioeconomic factors) and distances from cropland parcels to both EWFP and CCFP forest lands (geographic factors) had direct and indirect impacts on cropland abandonment, potentially facilitating the provision of ecosystem services through forest restoration and regrowth on the abandoned land. These findings are highly valuable for policy-makers designing similar PES programs with higher cost-effectiveness and better selection of croplands as targets for reforestation.
... Classification validation found an overall accuracy of 90% or above for all classified images. Detailed information of classifying images and detecting changes is provided in Zhang et al. (2017). The classified maps were then reclassified to forest and non-forest as the former class is the focus here. ...
... However, forest succession would not explain the decrease in NDVI in the persistence zone or the decrease in NDWI in both zones. In fact, succession should also occur in the lower zone and NDWI should increase as the forest matures [41]. The increasing difference in NDVI and NDWI could also be driven by the transient response to the 2009-2012 storms, without representing a long term trend. ...
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Retreat of coastal forests in relation to sea level rise has been widely documented. Recent work indicates that coastal forests on the Delmarva Peninsula, United States, can be differentiated into persistence and regenerative zones as a function of sea-level rise and storm events. In the lower persistence zone trees cannot regenerate because of frequent flooding and high soil salinity. This study aims to verify the existence of these zones using spectral remote sensing data, and determine whether the effect of large storm events that cause damage to these forests can be detected from satellite images. Spectral analysis confirms a significant difference in average Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI) values in the proposed persistence and regenerative zones. Both NDVI and NDWI indexes decrease after storms triggering a surge above 1.3 m with respect to the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD88). NDWI values decrease more, suggesting that this index is better suited to detect the effect of hurricanes on coastal forests. In the regenerative zone, both NDVI and NDWI values recover three years after a storm, while in the persistence zone the NDVI and NDWI values keep decreasing, possibly due to sea level rise causing vegetation stress. As a result, the forest resilience to storms in the persistence zone is lower than in the regenerative zone. Our findings corroborate the ecological ratchet model of coastal forest disturbance.
... To create the land cover maps, Random Forest Classifier (RFC) was applied because it is robust in mapping large-area land cover and particularly effective when a large number of features is involved (Pal, 2005;Gong et al., 2013;Zhang et al., 2018a). To balance computation time and classification performance, we implemented RFC with 500 trees and the square root of the total number of input variables as the number of variables to split each node. ...
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Impervious surface dynamics have far-reaching consequences on both the environment and human well-being. The expansion of impervious surface is often spontaneous and conscious, particularly in fast developing regions. Thus, monitoring impervious surface dynamics with high temporal frequency in a both accurate and efficient manner is highly needed. Here, we propose an approach to capture continuous impervious surface dynamics using spatial-temporal rules and dense time series stacks of Landsat data. First, a stable area mask based on image classification in the start and the end years is generated to remove pixels that are persistent or spatially irrelevant. The Continuous Change Detection (CCD) algorithm is then employed to determine the change points when non-impervious cover converts to impervious surface based on the property of temporal irreversibility. Finally, the CCD time series models are calibrated for pixels with no change or multiple changes. We apply and assess the proposed approach in Nanchang (China), which has been experiencing rapid impervious surface expansion during the past decade. According to the validation results, overall accuracies of image classification in the start and the end years are 97.2% and 96.7%, respectively. Our approach generates convincing results for impervious surface change detection, with overall accuracy of 85.5% at the annual scale, which is higher than three commonly used approaches in previous studies. At the continuous scale, the mean biases of the detected time of imperviousness emergence are +0.17 (backward) and −3.42 (forward) Landsat revisit periods (16 days) for pixels with one single change and multiple changes, respectively. The derived impervious surface extent maps exhibit comparable performances with five widely used products. The present approach offers a new perspective for providing timely and accurate impervious surface dynamics with dense temporal frequency and high classification accuracy.
... The area covers 189 km 2 , with elevations ranging from 363 m to 1,729 m above sea level. The dominant land cover is natural forest, as the area forms part of Tianma National Nature Reserve Zhang et al., 2018b). Natural forests within the reserve are designated as Ecological Welfare Forests and protected from commercial logging by local farmers. ...
... Tiantangzhai has a subtropical monsoon climate with a mean annual temperature of 16.4°C, and a mean annual precipitation of 1350 mm. The township is heavily forested (72% of the total land area in 2013) with modest area in cropland (14%) (Zhang et al., 2016). The primary crops are rice, corn, and sweet potato, produced primarily for domestic consumption and animal feed. ...
While agri-environmental policies that target different problems are often simultaneously implemented at the same place, little attention has been paid to the interactions of the policies, either in policy design or evaluation. The goal of this study is to understand the potential interactions (synergies or trade-offs) between an agricultural subsidy program and two payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs, namely the Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program (CCFP) and the Ecological Welfare Forest Program (EWFP), and their effects on household land use decisions. Data collected from 481 rural households in Anhui, China are used for the exploration. The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework is used to identify factors that may affect household land use decisions, i.e., whether to expand, stabilize, or shrink the cropland area, and further to identify whether to abandon or rent out land if the shrinkage decision is made. The results show that: (1) most rural households (58%) in the study area reduce cultivated land, and mostly via cropland abandonment, while only 16% of the interviewed households expand land area; (2) the most important factors determining cropland expansion include farm tools and transportation equipment, while the number of parcels and financial support are the dominant factors that stimulate households to adopt abandoning over renting-out decisions when deciding to shrink cropland; (3) EWFP payment has a significant direct impact on cropland management, while no significant influences are observed from the other two programs; (4) there exist complex trade-offs among the three government programs with similar or conflicting aims, which highlights the need to take policy interactions into account when designing new agri-environmental policies.
... Eighty percent of the Township is covered with forests, most of which are naturally occurring (vs. plantations or woodlots) (Zhang et al., 2016). Rice is the main crop; due to the relatively high elevation, only one rice crop per year is cultivated. ...
Fuelwood is an essential environmental good for livelihood in rural China. Heavy reliance on fuelwood is associated with numerous negative externalities. Due to decades of rapid economic growth in China, we hypothesize that the increase in rural household income would reduce reliance on fuelwood. Using data from a survey of 481 households conducted in 2014, we examined the effects of two payments for ecosystem services programs, the Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program (CCFP) and the Ecological Welfare Forest Program (EWFP), on energy use, along with other factors. We found that the CCFP did not significantly affect fuel choice nor the quantity of fuelwood used, but households with more forestland in EWFP were less likely to adopt modern fuels and likely to use more fuelwood. Household per capita annual income was the main factor promoting adoption of modern fuels, while household size was the most important factor determining the quantity of fuelwood used per capita. Overall, the gradually increasing adoption of modern fuels has thus far not resulted in any significant abandonment of fuelwood. Fuelwood remains the dominant fuel across all income groups, suggesting that households in the study area are in the early stages of the energy transition.
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Using remotely sensed data, we documented changes in land use/land cover (LULC) from 1995 to 2015 and net primary productivity (NPP) from 2000 to 2014 in Central Asia's 415,048 km2 Ili-Balkhash Basin (IBB). This basin, which is shared by China and Kazakhstan, is in the midst of significant socioeconomic transformation due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the emergence of Kazakhstan, and the economic rise of China. Grazing land covered 82.4% of the IBB in 1995; water bodies and bare land were the only other LULC categories occupying more than 3% of the basin's area. Changes in LULC were most evident on the Chinese side of the border, where crop production areas increased and grazing areas decreased between 1995 and 2015. The area of irrigated cropland in China grew by nearly 30%, primarily in the upper Tekes River valley and along the Ili River near the border with Kazakhstan. In contrast, the irrigated lands in Kazakhstan shifted geographically during this period, but the extent did not change. Expansion of wetlands and permanent water bodies, which occupied 2.1 to 2.9% and 4.6 to 4.7%, respectively, of the IBB in 1995 and 2015, was associated with accretion of Lake Balkhash and Kapchagai Reservoir in Kazakhstan and the construction of new reservoirs in China. NPP of the basin approached 700 g C m−2/year in a few areas but was generally less than half this level and characterized by a declining trend except in highly productive irrigated areas of dense, stable vegetation. NPP decreases of more than −10 g C m−2/year were apparent in mountainous and upland areas, as well as broad band of grassland and cropland in Kazakhstan. Areas surrounding Lake Balkhash were characterized by unstable to moderately stable, often sparse vegetation.
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Classifying land cover is perhaps the most common application of remote sensing, yet classification at frequent temporal intervals remains a challenging task due to radiometric differences among scenes, time and budget constraints, and semantic differences among class definitions from different dates. The automatic adaptive signature generalization (AASG) algorithm overcomes many of these limitations by locating stable sites between two images and using them to adapt class spectral signatures from a high-quality reference classification to a new image, which mitigates the impacts of radiometric and phenological differences between images and ensures that class definitions remain consistent between the two classifications. We refined AASG to adapt stable site identification parameters to each individual land cover class, while also incorporating improved input data and a random forest classifier. In the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, our new version of AASG demonstrated an improved ability to update existing land cover classifications compared to the initial version of AASG, particularly for low intensity developed, mixed forest, and woody wetland classes. Topographic indices were particularly important for distinguishing woody wetlands from other forest types, while multi-seasonal imagery contributed to improved classification of water, developed, forest, and hay/pasture classes. These results demonstrate both the flexibility of the AASG algorithm and the potential for using it to produce high-quality land cover classifications that can utilize the entire temporal range of the Landsat archive in an automated fashion while maintaining consistent class definitions through time.
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This report synthesizes the findings from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment's (MA) global and sub-global assessments of how ecosystem changes do, or could, affect human health and well-being. Main topics covered are: Food, fresh water, timber, fibre, and fuel, nutrient and waste management, pollution, processing and detoxification, cultural, spiritual and recreational services, climate regulation, and extreme weather events. <br /
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Vegetation is the primary producer in the terrestrial ecosystem. Vegetation absorbs the energy of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun and converts it to the energy that consumers in the ecosystem can use. As a result, vegetation is the foundation for nearly all the goods and services that terrestrial ecosystems provide to humanity. The advent of optical remote sensing revolutionized our ability to map the characteristics of vegetation wall-to-wall in space and to do so repeatedly, in a cost-efficient manner. Many of these vegetation parameters serve as key inputs to ecological models aiming to understand terrestrial ecosystem functions, at regional to global scales. This chapter summarizes the progress made in characterizing vegetation structure and its ecological functions with optical remote sensing. We first provide a brief review of the development of optical sensors designed primarily for vegetation monitoring. Second, we synthesize the progress made in mapping the physical structure of vegetation with optical sensors, including vegetation cover, vegetation successional stages, biomass, leaf area index (LAI), and its spatial organization, that is, leaf clumping. Third, we review the achievements made in understanding vegetation function with optical remote sensing, particularly vegetation primary productivity and related ecologically important functions. Primary production provides the energy that drives all subsequent ecosystem processes. Optical remote sensing has made it possible to estimate the primary productivity of vegetation over the entire Earth land surface (Running et al. 1994; Zhao et al. 2005).
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Although mapping activities of urban land change have been widely carried out, detailed information on urban development in time over rapid urbanization areas would have been lost in most studies with multi-year intervals. Here we provide a two-stage framework of long-term mapping of urban areas at an annual frequency in Beijing, China, over the period from 1984 to 2013. Classification for each year was carried out initially based on a number of Landsat scenes within that year using spectral information from a base image plus NDVI time series derived from all scenes. A temporal consistency check involving both temporal filtering and heuristic reasoning was then applied to the sequence of classified urban maps for further improvement. We assessed this time-series of urban maps based on two schemes. One is change detection in rapidly developing areas over the past three decades, and the other is accuracy assessment over the whole region in four selected years (i.e., 1984, 1990, 2000 and 2013). Based on validation using independent samples, the OAs (overall accuracies) of these four years are 96%, 93%, 92% and 95%, respectively. Meanwhile, the average accuracy of change detection for all years is 83%. In addition, the proposed temporal consistency check was found to be able to make considerable improvements (about 6%) to the overall accuracies and results of change detection. The resultant urban land sequence revealed that the average growth rates were 47.51 ± 4.17 km2/year, 34.65 ± 2.90 km2/year and 99.48 ± 1.3 km2/year for 1984–1990, 1990–2000 and 2000–2013, respectively.
When we view a landscape, we look at its composition and spatial configuration—that is, what elements are present and in what relative amount, and how these elements are arranged. In an agricultural landscape, we may observe forests occurring along streams and on steep ridges, whereas croplands and pastures occupy upland areas of gentler slope. In a fire-dominated boreal forest landscape, we may see expanses of old forest, young forest, and early successional vegetation. In a deciduous forest, we may observe small gaps in an otherwise continuous canopy of trees, and we may detect boundaries between forests dominated by different species of trees. In landscapes of small extent (e.g., 100 m by 100 m), we may observe complex patterns of vegetated and unvegetated surfaces. Observations of landscape patterns can trigger a number of general questions: How do all these different patterns develop? What is the relative importance of different causes? Do similar patterns emerge from similar processes? How do landscape patterns change through time? What conditions produce gradual vs. abrupt changes in landscape patterns? Can future patterns be predicted? For how long are patterns discernible after the processes creating the patterns have ceased?
Cross-border tourism region is a geographic unit which has large tourism development potential and complex management object, and becomes a new research focal point in tourism geography. Based on the Inter-Organizational Relationships (IORs) and social network theory, the paper indicates that the spatial cooperation behavior among cross-border tourism regions is essentially the network construction and reorganization of contacts and exchanges between the cross-border tourism organizations. Using the corresponding social network evaluating indicator system, the paper makes an empirical analysis for cross-border tourism region network structure and cross-border cooperation in the Tiantangzhai of Dabieshan, and then the conclusion is verified by core-periphery model. The results show that: (1) In terms of the network density, the whole Tiantangzhai network is smaller compared with the local network density, showing a weak tie between the administrative areas and a strong tie inside the administrative area, meanwhile structural holes are found. The network density between the low level administrative areas is bigger than that between the upper ones. The more cross-border dimensions are, the smaller the network density is. This reflects that there is a significant border effect in the cross-border tourism activity. (2) As to the network degree, the local degree is the biggest, followed by the global degree, and the border degree is the smallest. It is proved that tourism administrative region economy is an influential phenomenon. (3) According to Francisco's integrated model of IORs, the paper discovers that the cross-border tourism cooperation has transferred from a weak phase to a medium phase in Tiantangzhai. To enhance cooperation in Tiantangzhai cross-border region, concrete measures should be taken to achieve the aim of sustainable development by reducing the transactional costs, strengthening the conformity among departments concerned, building the good external environments, and setting up the cross-border tourism alliances.
Conversion of land to grow crops, raise animals, obtain timber, and build cities is one of the foundations of human civilization. While land use provides these essential ecosystem goods, it alters a range of other ecosystem functions, such as the provisioning of freshwater, regulation of climate and biogeochemical cycles, and maintenance of soil fertility. It also alters habitat for biological diversity. Balancing the inherent trade-offs between satisfying immediate human needs and maintaining other ecosystem functions requires quantitative knowledge about ecosystem responses to land use. These responses vary according to the type of land-use change and the ecological setting, and have local, short-term as well as global, long-term effects. Land-use decisions ultimately weigh the need to satisfy human demands and the unintended ecosystem responses based on societal values, but ecological knowledge can provide a basis for assessing the trade-offs.