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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Forest Science (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

First Advisor

Audrey Lorraine Mayer


The Zagros oak forests in Western Iran are critically important to the sustainability of the region. These forests have undergone dramatic declines in recent decades. We evaluated the utility of the non-parametric Random Forest classification algorithm for land cover classification of Zagros landscapes, and selected the best spatial and spectral predictive variables. The algorithm resulted in high overall classification accuracies (>85%) and also equivalent classification accuracies for the datasets from the three different sensors. We evaluated the associations between trends in forest area and structure with trends in socioeconomic and climatic conditions, to identify the most likely driving forces creating deforestation and landscape structure change. We used available socioeconomic (urban and rural population, and rural income), and climatic (mean annual rainfall and mean annual temperature) data for two provinces in northern Zagros. The most correlated driving force of forest area loss was urban population, and climatic variables to a lesser extent. Landscape structure changes were more closely associated with rural population. We examined the effects of scale changes on the results from spatial pattern analysis. We assessed the impacts of eight years of protection in a protected area in northern Zagros at two different scales (both grain and extent). The effects of protection on the amount and structure of forests was scale dependent. We evaluated the nature and magnitude of changes in forest area and structure over the entire Zagros region from 1972 to 2009. We divided the Zagros region in 167 Landscape Units and developed two measures— Deforestation Sensitivity (DS) and Connectivity Sensitivity (CS) — for each landscape unit as the percent of the time steps that forest area and ECA experienced a decrease of greater than 10% in either measure. A considerable loss in forest area and connectivity was detected, but no sudden (nonlinear) changes were detected at the spatial and temporal scale of the study. Connectivity loss occurred more rapidly than forest loss due to the loss of connecting patches. More connectivity was lost in southern Zagros due to climatic differences and different forms of traditional land use.