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Modelling the dynamics of landscape transformations and population growth in the highlands of Ethiopia using remote-sensing data

Wondie, Menale, Schneider, Werner, Katzensteiner, Klaus, Mansberger, Reinfried, Teketay, Demel
International journal of remote sensing 2016 v.37 no.23 pp. 5647-5667
aerial photography, algorithms, carrying capacity, cropland, dynamic models, energy, food shortages, highlands, issues and policy, land cover, land management, landscapes, logit analysis, ownership, population growth, population size, remote sensing, vegetation types, Ethiopia
This study models landscape transformations and settlement dynamics in a highland area of Ethiopia over a 56 year period (1957–2013). The analyses were performed using aerial photographs, satellite images, and field data. The remotely sensed images were geometrically and radiometrically corrected. Visual interpretation of aerial photographs and supervised classification of multispectral satellite images using the maximum likelihood algorithm were chosen for land-cover mapping. The population size was estimated by counting the houses on the aerial photographs and on the high-resolution images, and by direct census. The overall trend showed an increase of cropland and a decrease of other types of land cover. Landscape transformation rates recently slowed down due to ownership and policy restrictions. The average cropland holding size per family has decreased from 2.6 to 1.1 ha due to the exponential growth of the population. The relationship between settlement and cropland expansion is statistically significant. Models of logistic growth were fitted to the cropland area, and models of exponential and logistic growth to the population development to estimate the carrying capacity. The concomitant increase of population and the decrease of cropland per head resulted in a shortage of food and energy, highlighting the importance of policy decisions on land management.