Forest Shapes (04-02-18)

Research indicates that tropical forests, whether they’re massive or tiny, whose footprints have particular shapes are more likely to survive—these shapes are likely to be good design choices when natural areas are being developed. Dufresne lead a study, published in Ecology Letters, which determinedthat “when patches of tropical forest lose their natural shape it could contribute to the sudden, even catastrophic, transformation of that land from trees to grass. . . .Using high-resolution satellite data from protected forests in the savanna region of the Brazilian Cerrado, the scientists found that the shape of these natural forests follow a predictable mathematical relationship between a forest’s perimeter and its area—regardless of its climate region or its size. They call this a “3/4 power law” and it roughly means the forests all tend toward shapes that are neither skinny like a line, nor round and smooth like a circle. . . . the 3/4 law holds true for tiny forest fragments not much bigger than a basketball court up to large forest patches covering dozens of square miles.” Forest shape and stability are clearly linked.

“Study:  To Prevent Collapse of Tropical Forests, Protect Their Shape.”  2018. Press release, University of Vermont,