Spatial dynamics of deforestation and forest fragmentation (1930–2013) in Eastern Ghats, India
- National Remote Sensing Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation, Balanagar, Hyderabad 500037, India
Keywords: Deforestation, Fragmentation, Conservation, Remote sensing, GIS, Eastern Ghats, India
Abstract. The tropical forests are the most unique ecosystems for their potential economic value. Eastern Ghats, a phytogeographical region of India has rugged hilly terrain distributed in parts of five states, viz. Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The present study is mainly aimed to analyse the trends in deforestation and its role in forest fragmentation of Eastern Ghats. The long term changes in forest cover with its spatial pattern over time has been assessed by analyzing a set of topographical maps and satellite remote sensing datasets. The multi-source and multi-date mapping has been carried out using survey of India topographical maps (1930's), Landsat MSS (1975 and 1985), IRS 1B LISS-I (1995), IRS P6 AWiFS (2005) and Resourcesat-2 AWiFS (2013) satellite images. The classified spatial data for 1930, 1975, 1985, 1995, 2005 and 2013 showed that the forest cover for the mentioned years are 102213 km2 (45.6 %), 76630 (34.2 %), 73416 km2 (32.7 %), 71730 km2 (32 %), 71305 km2 (31.8 %) and 71186 km2 (31.7 %) of the geographical area of Eastern Ghats respectively. A spatial statistical analysis of the deforestation rates and forest cover change were carried out based on distinctive time phases, i.e. 1930–1975, 1975–1985, 1985–1995, 1995–2005 and 2005–2013. The spatial analysis was carried out first by segmenting the study area into grid cells of 5 km x 5 km for time series assessment and determining spatial changes in forests. The distribution of loss and gain of forest was calculated across six classes i.e. <1 km2, 1–5 km2, 5–10 km2, 10–15 km2, 15–20 km2 and >20 km2. Landscape metrics were used to quantify spatial variability of landscape structure and composition. The results of study on net rate of deforestation was found to be 0.64 during 1935 to 1975, 0.43 during 1975–1985, 0.23 during 1985–1995, 0.06 during 1995–2005 and 0.02 during 2005–2013. The number of forest patches increased from 2688 (1930) to 13009 (2013). The largest forest patch in 1930 represents area of 41669 km2 that has reduced to 27800 km2 by 2013. Thus, it is evident that there is a substantial reduction in the size of the very large forest patches due to deforestation. According to spatial analysis, among the different land use change drivers, agriculture occupies highest area, followed by degradation to scrub and conversion to orchards. The dominant forest type was dry deciduous which comprises 37192 km2 (52.2 %) of the total forest area of Eastern Ghats, followed by moist deciduous forest (39.2 %) and semievergreen forest (4.8 %) in 2013. The change analysis showed that the large scale negative changes occurred in deciduous forests and semi-evergreen forests compared to wet evergreen forests due to high economic potential and accessibility. This study has quantified the deforestation that has taken place over the last eight decades in the Eastern Ghats. The decline in overall rate of deforestation in recent years indicates increased measures of conservation. The change analysis of deforestation and forest fragmentation provides a decisive component for conservation and helpful in long term management of forests of Eastern Ghats.