An understanding of changes in forest cover and the drivers of forest transition (FT) contributes to the sustainable management of global forests. In this paper, we used the latest global land cover data published by the European Space Agency (ESA) to investigate spatiotemporal variation characteristics of forest cover in developing countries from 1992 to 2015, and then analyzed causal factors of this variation using a binary logistic regression model. Existing studies on FT are mostly based on data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); this study improves our understanding of FT mechanisms through the use of a new dataset. The results indicate that the forest area in developing countries decreased from 21.8 to 21.3 million km2
from 1992–2015, and the rate of decline slowed after 2004. South America suffered the largest reduction in forest area (505,100 km2
), whereas forest area in Africa increased slightly. By 2015, more than 80% of African countries had experienced FT, whereas only half of developing countries experienced forest expansion in South America. The variables affecting FT occurrence differed among continents. On the global scale, the remaining forest coverage and the proportion of forest exports negatively affected the likelihood of FT occurrence, whereas urbanization level had a positive effect.
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