Human Activities Are Changing Forest Structure

Research from China shows that increasing anthropogenic activities are altering the density of forests in protected areas and intact forest landscapes globally.

AsianScientist (Feb. 02, 2023) – Research is increasingly showing that climate change and human activities strongly influence forests. However, environmental scientists don’t fully understand the pervasiveness of these stressors and how they will shape future forest structure. Forests are expected to be mostly intact in protected areas (PAs) and so-called intact forest landscapes (IFLs). But human impacts are expanding and intensifying even in these areas.

Researchers led by LI Wang from the Aerospace Information Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have provided, for the first time, a panoramic view of global patterns in the multidimensional structure of forests. As part of their work, the researchers have discerned the relative importance of climate and human impacts as well as other environmental factors in shaping global forest structure, particularly that of PAs and IFLs. The study was published in Nature Sustainability .

The research team provided a near-global assessment of human impacts on forest structural density using massive, high-quality, quantitative, global-scale data integrated from Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellites.

“While acknowledging the importance of climate and other factors, we focused on the role played by human activities in shaping forest structural density at a near-global scale across all, protected, and intact forests,” said LI.

The research team found that human impacts are the second-most important driver after climate in shaping forest structure both globally and regionally. Moreover, human factors are the dominant driver of regional-scale variation in structural density in 35.1% of forests globally and even of forest structure in 31.4% and 22.4% of forests in PAs and IFLs, respectively, the study noted.

“Given the ways in which forests support overall function of the biosphere and serve as major repositories of biodiversity,” said LI, “the more fragile condition we find them in, the more it represents a considerable and unperceived ecological and climatic—and therefore human—risk.”

It is vital to counteract human impacts more effectively in the planning and sustainable management of PAs and IFLs, the study noted.

Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences ; Image: Unsplash

The article can be found at Human fingerprint on structural density of forests globally

Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.


Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist