Patterns of Land Use/Cover Dynamics in the Mountain Landscape of Tara Gedam and Adjacent Agro-Ecosystem, Northwest Ethiopia
This study analyzed land use/cover dynamics in the mountain landscape of Tara Gedam and adjacent agro-ecosystem of northwest Ethiopia over a period of 46 years (1957–2003). The changes were measured through interpretation of aerial photographs taken in 1957 and 1980, and Land-sat satellite image of 2003 using Arc gis 9.2 software, supported by focal group discussions and field visits. Three separate maps (for years 1957, 1980 and 2003) of the study area were produced and six major land use/cover classes were identified: dense forest, woodland, shrub land, grassland, riverine vegetation and cultivated and settlement land. The results indicated that the main land trajectory was from natural vegetation cover to settlement and cultivated land. The cultivated and settlement land coverage increased by 90.60% between 1957 and 2003. However, woodland, dense forest, riverine vegetation, shrub and grasslands coverage declined by 97.87, 71.04, 37.00, 9.02 and 3.03%, respectively. These could be mainly attributed to anthropogenic factors. Increasing demands of more land for cultivation and settlement, overgrazing, deforestation for fuel wood and construction have resulted in a dramatic shrinkage of the area under natural vegetation. The 1975 national land reform proclamation of the country had also contributed to the expansion of cultivated and settlement land. The implications of these changes are increased land degradation and loss of biodiversity affecting the livelihood of the community. It is suggested that the study area needs an immediate intervention for developing sustainable land use practices and to manage the remaining natural vegetation and to rehabilitate the degraded lands.