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Remote Sens. 2016, 8(8), 623; doi:10.3390/rs8080623

Utilizing Multiple Lines of Evidence to Determine Landscape Degradation within Protected Area Landscapes: A Case Study of Chobe National Park, Botswana from 1982 to 2011

Department of Geography, University of Florida, 3141 Turlington Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
These authors contributed equally to this work.
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Academic Editors: Rasmus Fensholt, Stephanie Horion, Parth Sarathi Roy and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 28 May 2016 / Revised: 21 July 2016 / Accepted: 23 July 2016 / Published: 28 July 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Land Degradation and Drivers of Change)
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Abstract

The savannas of Southern Africa are an important dryland ecosystem as they cover up to 54% of the landscape and support a rich variety of biodiversity. This paper evaluates landscape change in savanna vegetation along Chobe Riverfront within Chobe National Park Botswana, from 1982 to 2011 to understand what change may be occurring in land cover. Classifying land cover in savanna environments is challenging because the vegetation spectral signatures are similar across distinct vegetation covers. With vegetation species and even structural groups having similar signatures in multispectral imagery difficulties exist in making discrete classifications in such landscapes. To address this issue, a Random Forest classification algorithm was applied to predict land-cover classes. Additionally, time series vegetation indices were used to support the findings of the discrete land cover classification. Results indicate that a landscape level vegetation shift has occurred across the Chobe Riverfront, with results highlighting a shift in land cover towards more woody vegetation. This represents a degradation of vegetation cover within this savanna landscape environment, largely due to an increasing number of elephants and other herbivores utilizing the Riverfront. The forested area along roads at a further distance from the River has also had a loss of percent cover. The continuous analysis during 1982–2011, utilizing monthly AVHRR (Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer) NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) values, also verifies this change in amount of vegetation is a continuous and ongoing process in this region. This study provides land use planners and managers with a more reliable, efficient and relatively inexpensive tool for analyzing land-cover change across these highly sensitive regions, and highlights the usefulness of a Random Forest classification in conjunction with time series analysis for monitoring savanna landscapes. View Full-Text
Keywords: savannas; degradation; land-cover change; remote sensing; random forest classification savannas; degradation; land-cover change; remote sensing; random forest classification
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Herrero, H.V.; Southworth, J.; Bunting, E. Utilizing Multiple Lines of Evidence to Determine Landscape Degradation within Protected Area Landscapes: A Case Study of Chobe National Park, Botswana from 1982 to 2011. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 623.

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