Land Use Land Cover in the Western Ghats, India

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Gerlach, Paul
Hubbard, Malissa
Norment, Elizabeth


Swenson, Jennifer Jane
Karanth, Krithi

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In India’s Western Ghats mountain range, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Conservation International biodiversity hotspot, human-caused habitat loss threatens many native species. A number of protected areas have been created to provide a refuge for these species and prevent further habitat loss. However, encroaching development continues to threaten these delicate ecosystems. Despite the area’s environmental value, there is no reliable, high-resolution land use land cover (LULC) map that would allow managers to estimate the extent and distribution of development as well as habitat condition and connectivity across the region. Using ASTER imagery, we conducted LULC classifications of 6 protected areas and their surroundings (20 km buffers). Separate classifications were conducted on Anshi-Dandeli National Park, Nagarahole and Bandipur National Parks, BRT Wildlife Sanctuary, and Kudremukh and Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuaries, for a total of four classification regions. We conducted both supervised maximum likelihood and unsupervised ISODATA classifications. Accuracy of the supervised classifications was higher than accuracy of the unsupervised classifications, with values ranging from 75.6-84.4%. Forest class accuracy ranged from 74% - 91%. We used the LULC classifications to assess the amount of forest cover within the protected areas and in the 20 km surrounding buffer. Within the classifications, 45-67% of the land is forested, while 17-35% of the land has been cleared for human use. We also conducted pilot analyses of forest fragmentation, patch connectivity, and human-affected areas in different parks. The LULC maps will be used to help managers set conservation goals and establish land use baselines for the region.





Gerlach, Paul, Malissa Hubbard and Elizabeth Norment (2013). Land Use Land Cover in the Western Ghats, India. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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