Myanmar is one of the countries with extensive forest cover in Southeast Asia. Its forests have been providing habitats for endangered species. However, this forest cover is rapidly declining due to economic and political change, says a recent study.
Regions which were inaccessible because of armed conflicts between the ethnic groups and the government are opening up for commercial plantations and timber production. For mapping forest cover in Myanmar, the researchers used Landsat satellite images between 2002 and 2014.
In 2014, they found that 63% of Myanmar (over 42 million hectares) was under forest cover. Of these, 38% were intact or un-fragmented forests. Intact forests are the most valuable in terms of protection of endangered species and conservation efforts.
They found that during the study period the area under intact forest declined by over 2 million hectares (that is, 11%) with 0.94% loss per year. Their analysis also helped them identify a large area intact forest in Northern Myanmar spread over 6.1 million hectares, and nine township hotspots of intact forests deforestation.
The researchers suggest that protection of intact forests should be prioritized, and other ways of improving forest management should be included.