Monitoring land Cover Changes and Fragmentation dynamics in the subtropical thicket of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Land cover change trends and fragmentation dynamics in the Great Fish River Nature Reserve (GFRNR) and surrounding settlements were monitored for a period of 38 years, in the intervals of 1972-1982, 1982-1992 and 2002-2010. Gaining an understanding of these trends and dynamics is vital for land management and combating desertification. Monitoring land cover change and fragmentation dynamics was conducted using LandSAT MSS, LandSAT4TM and LandSAT 7ETM and SPOT 5 High-resolution Geometric (HRG) imagery. The objected-oriented supervised approach and cross-classification algorithm were used for classification of the satellite imagery and change detection respectively. Landscape fragmentation was analysed using FRAGSTATS 3.3® class level land metrics. Overall, a decrease in the land area under intact and transformed thicket was realised. Degraded thicket, grassland and bare surfaces increased over the same period. Landscape metric analyses illustrated an increase in vegetation fragmentation over the 38-year period, as demonstrated by an increase in the number of patches (NP) and a decrease in the Largest Patch Index (LPI), particularly for intact and transformed thicket. Baseline land use/cover maps and fragmentation analyses in a temporal framework are valuable for gaining insights into, among other things, carbon stock change trends.
Keywords: Land cover change, fragmentation; remote sensing; Geographic information systems (GIS)
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