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Assessing land transformation and associated degradation of the west part of Ganga River Basin using forest cover land use mapping and residual trend analysis

Matin, Shafique, Ghosh, Sujit, Behera, Mukunda D.
Journal of Arid Land 2019 v.11 no.1 pp. 29-42
Landsat, arid lands, basins, climate change, forests, land degradation, land use change, models, photosynthesis, remote sensing, surface water, watersheds, wetlands
The west part of Ganga River Basin (WGRB) has experienced continuous land transformation since the Indus Valley Civilisation shifted from the Indus basin to the Ganga basin. Particularly in the last few decades the land transformation has increased many-folds due to the changing climate and rapid increase in population. In this paper, we assessed land transformation and associated degradation in the WGRB based on the forest cover land use (FCLU) mapping and residual trend analysis (RTA). The FCLU maps for 1975 and 2010 were generated using 216 Landsat satellite images and validated using 1509 ground points. We mapped 29 forest and 18 non-forest types and estimated a total loss of 5571 km² forest cover and expansion in settlement areas (5396 km²). Other major changes mapped include a decrease in wetlands and water bodies, while an increase in agriculture and barren lands with an overall mapping accuracy of 85.3% (kappa, 0.82) and 88.43% (kappa, 0.84) for 1975 and 2010, respectively. We also performed the RTA analysis using GIMMS-NDVI3g to identify areas of significant negative vegetative photosynthetic change as an indicator for land degradation. All the RTA models showed monotonic nature of the residual trends and resulted as moderately positive but highly significant (P<0.001). Land degradation in the form of barren land accompanied by a decline in vegetation quality and coverage was found prominent in the basin with a possibility of an accelerated rate of land degradation in future due to the rapid loss of permanent forest cover.