Contemporary land-use pressures have a significant impact on the extent and condition of forests in the eastern United States, causing a regional-scale decline in forest cover. Earlier in the 20th century, land cover was on a trajectory of forest expansion that followed agricultural abandonment. However, the potential for forest regeneration has slowed, and the extent of regional forest cover has declined by more than 4.0%. Using remote-sensing data, statistical sampling, and change-detection methods, this research shows how land conversion varies spatially and temporally across the East from 1973–2000, and how those changes affect regional land-change dynamics. The analysis shows that agricultural land use has continued to decline, and that this enables forest recovery; however, an important land-cover transition has occurred, from a mode of regional forest-cover gain to one of forest-cover loss caused by timber cutting cycles, urbanization, and other land-use demands.
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Vol. 60 • No. 4