Secondary forests in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) are increasingly recognized as a valuable component of land cover, providing ecosystem services and benefits for local users. A large proportion of secondary forests in the LMB, especially in the uplands, are maintained by swidden cultivation. In order to assess the regional-scale status and dynamic trends of secondary forests in the LMB, an analysis of existing regional land cover data for 1993 and 1997 was carried out and forms the basis of this paper. To gain insight into the full range of dynamics affecting secondary forests beyond net-change rates, cross-tabulation matrix analyses were performed. The investigations revealed that secondary forests make up the largest share of forest cover in the LMB, with over 80% located in Laos and Cambodia. The deforestation rates for secondary forests are 3 times higher than the rates for other forest categories and account for two-thirds of the total deforestation. These dynamics are particularly pronounced in the less advanced countries of the LMB, especially in Laos, where national policies and the opening up of national economies seem to be the main drivers of further degradation and loss of secondary forests.
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