This article presents a synthesis of what is known about areas of rapid land-cover change around the world over the past two decades, based on data compiled from remote sensing and censuses, as well as expert opinion. Asia currently has the greatest concentration of areas of rapid land-cover changes, and dryland degradation in particular. The Amazon basin remains a major hotspot of tropical deforestation. Rapid cropland increase, often associated with large-scale deforestation, is prominent in Southeast Asia. Forest degradation in Siberia, mostly related to logging activities, is increasing rapidly. The southeastern United States and eastern China are experiencing rapid cropland decrease. Existing data do not support the claim that the African Sahel is a desertification hotspot. Many of the most populated and rapidly changing cities are found in the tropics.
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Vol. 55 • No. 2