Southeast Asia has some of the highest deforestation rates globally, with Malaysia being identified as a deforestation hotspot. The Malayan tiger, a critically endangered subspecies of the tiger endemic to Peninsular Malaysia, is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation. In this study, we estimate the natural forest loss and conversion to plantations in Peninsular Malaysia and specifically in its tiger habitat between 1988 and 2012 using the Landsat data archive. We estimate a total loss of 1.35 Mha of natural forest area within Peninsular Malaysia over the entire study period, with 0.83 Mha lost within the tiger habitat. Nearly half (48%) of the natural forest loss area represents conversion to tree plantations. The annual area of new plantation establishment from natural forest conversion increased from 20 thousand ha year−1
during 1988–2000 to 34 thousand ha year−1
during 2001–2012. Large-scale industrial plantations, primarily those of oil palm, as well as recently cleared land, constitute 80% of forest converted to plantations since 1988. We conclude that industrial plantation expansion has been a persistent threat to natural forests within the Malayan tiger habitat. Expanding oil palm plantations dominate forest conversions while those for rubber are an emerging threat.
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