chapter  3
28 Pages

Defining and measuring changing forest conditions

Before starting the country analysis, it is vital to deal with the concepts and measurement of the central variables in this book: deforestation and forest degradation. After examining different current definitions of these two phenomena, four critical dimensions are discussed: canopy cover, spatial resolution, sample size and time-scale. It is argued that any unbiased forest definition should build on measurable tree-cover rather than on assumed land-usage; there should be no ‘forests without trees’. Unfortunately, for our five primary study countries, knowledge about forest-cover and -loss remains scattered and contradictory.As long as we have no direct measurements of deforestation, analyses of other (mainly agricultural) land uses can give important additional insights. Likely ranges of deforestation estimates in the country chapters are given and compared with the FAO’s. Some proposals as to what it would take to produce a truly consolidated forest-cover information system conclude the chapter.