The United States' Eastern forests have suffered a "substantial and sustained net loss" over the past few decades, according to a detailed study appearing in BioScience. From 1973 to 2000, Eastern have declined by 4.1 percent or 3.7 million hectares. Deforestation occurred in all Eastern regions, but the loss was most concentrated in the southeastern plains.
The loss overturns a trend of increasing forest that was sustained for about half a century. During the 19th Century, much of the Eastern forests were felled for agriculture, but that trend turned around by 1920 with forests making a comeback. While the report found that reforestation of abandoned fields and pastures continues in some places, overall forests lost out.
Forests are being lost largely to spreading suburbs and the timber industry. Mountaintop mining, a hot-button issue in the region, has also contributed significantly to forest loss: more than 420,000 hectares of forest (just over 10 percent of the total) have been lost in the Appalachian highlands due to the practice of blowing up mountain peaks for coal extraction. Recently a group of experts called on the Obama Administration to ban mountaintop removal due to environmental and human impacts.