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Three Decades of Land Cover Change in East Africa

US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Ogden, UT 84401, USA
Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development, Nairobi 00618, Kenya
Google Switzerland, 8002 Zurich, Switzerland
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Land 2021, 10(2), 150;
Received: 31 December 2020 / Revised: 21 January 2021 / Accepted: 25 January 2021 / Published: 3 February 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Monitoring Land Cover Change: Towards Sustainability)
Population growth rates in Sub-Saharan East Africa are among the highest in the world, creating increasing pressure for land cover conversion. To date, however, there has been no comprehensive assessment of regional land cover change, and most long-term trends have not yet been quantified. Using a designed sample of satellite-based observations of historical land cover change, we estimate the areas and trends in nine land cover classes from 1998 to 2017 in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia. Our analysis found an 18,154,000 (±1,580,000) ha, or 34.8%, increase in the area of cropland in East Africa. Conversion occurred primarily from Open Grasslands, Wooded Grasslands, and Open Forests, causing a large-scale reduction in woody vegetation classes. We observed far more conversion (by approximately 20 million hectares) of woody classes to less-woody classes than succession in the direction of increasing trees and shrubs. Spatial patterns within our sample highlight regional land cover conversion hotspots, such as the Central Zambezian Miombo Woodlands, as potential areas of concern related to the conservation of natural ecosystems. Our findings reflect a rapidly growing population that is moving into new areas, with a 43.5% increase in the area of Settlements over the three-decade period. Our results show the areas and ecoregions most impacted by three decades of human development, both spatially and statistically. View Full-Text
Keywords: land cover change; TimeSync; East Africa; Landsat; statistical inference; development land cover change; TimeSync; East Africa; Landsat; statistical inference; development
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MDPI and ACS Style

Bullock, E.L.; Healey, S.P.; Yang, Z.; Oduor, P.; Gorelick, N.; Omondi, S.; Ouko, E.; Cohen, W.B. Three Decades of Land Cover Change in East Africa. Land 2021, 10, 150.

AMA Style

Bullock EL, Healey SP, Yang Z, Oduor P, Gorelick N, Omondi S, Ouko E, Cohen WB. Three Decades of Land Cover Change in East Africa. Land. 2021; 10(2):150.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Bullock, Eric L., Sean P. Healey, Zhiqiang Yang, Phoebe Oduor, Noel Gorelick, Steve Omondi, Edward Ouko, and Warren B. Cohen. 2021. "Three Decades of Land Cover Change in East Africa" Land 10, no. 2: 150.

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