May 19, 2017 02:19 AM EDT
Scientists blame the political and economic change in Myanmar to the loss of intact forest cover in the country that has been ongoing over the last decade. Because of the long political and economic isolation, the country was not able to protect its intact forest, they added.
In the study published in PLOS One titled "Losing a jewel—Rapid declines in Myanmar’s intact forests from 2002-2014," the loss of Myanmar's intact forest has been increasingly subjected to the government's pressures from fast political and economic changes in the country. In some areas inaccessible because of armed conflicts between the government and ethnic groups, timber production and commercial plantations started to open and establish there.
Peter Leimgruber of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the lead author of this study, said that they have investigated the intact forest of Myanmar by using satellite images in mapping forest covers between 2002 and 2014. With him is Ned Horning from American Museum of Natural History and their colleagues.
In their investigation, they found out that last 2014, 63 percent or 42 million hectares of Myanmar was covered by forest, making it one of the most forested countries. On the other hand, they were observed to have poor conservation efforts and protection of endangered species and intact forests.
In an article published in Science Daily, 38 percent of Myanmar's forest cover is an intact forest. During the study period of the authors, they found out that this intact forest declined already by 11 percent or more than two million hectares. It is with an annual loss of 0.94 percent.
With their analysis, the authors also found out nine township hotspots of deforestation of intact forests. They also identified a large area of 6.1 million hectares of intact forest located in Northern Myanmar.
Leimgruber, Horning, and their colleagues suggest that the protection of intact forest should be the government of Myanmar's priority. They also encouraged the government of improving forest management like forest restoration, and reclamation of degraded forestlands for plantations and sustainable agriculture.