Assessing land clearing potential in the Canadian agriculture–forestry interface with a multi-attribute frontier approach
The pattern of forest land clearing in a region can be viewed as a gauge of sustainable (or unsustain-able) use of agricultural and forest resources. In this study we examine the geographical distribution ofland clearing potential in the Canadian agriculture–forestry interface and propose a new landscape-scaleindicator that quantifies this potential. We consider the possibility that forested land will be cleared foragriculture as a trade-off between the land’s capacity to support agriculture and its comparative valueif it remains forested. However, this trade-off is complicated by the land’s susceptibility to fragmenta-tion (and subsequent conversion), which derives from the local pattern of forest, agriculture and otherland cover types. We find the locations in the agriculture–forestry interface with the highest land clear-ing potential by delineating nested multi-attribute frontiers in the dimensions of the land’s agriculturalcapacity, its estimated forest productivity and its fragmentation potential. The multi-attribute frontierconcept addresses our lack of knowledge about the relative importance of these multiple drivers of landconversion by objectively combining them into a single-dimensional land clearing pressure metric in ageographical setting. Overall, our approach provides a simple yet informative indicator which reveals thegeographical stratification of land clearing pressures across large regions. In general, the spatial delineation of areas with high land clearing potential agrees well with recent evidence of land clearing anddeforestation events in Canada.