Land use and land cover change (LULCC) are dynamic over time and space due to human and biophysical factors. Accurate and up-to-date LULCC information is a mandatory part of environmental change analysis and natural resource management. In Sri Lanka, there is a significant temporal gap in the existing LULCC information due to the civil war that took place from 1983 to 2009. In order to fill this gap, this study presents a whole-country LULCC map for Sri Lanka over a 25-year period using Landsat time-series imagery from 1993 to 2018. The LandTrendr change detection algorithm, utilising the normalised burn ratio (NBR) and normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI), was used to develop spectral trajectories over this time period. A land cover change and disturbance map was created with random forest, using 2117 manually interpreted reference pixels, of which 75% were used for training and 25% for validation. The model achieved an overall accuracy of 94.14%. The study found that 890,003.52 hectares (ha) (13.5%) of the land has changed, while 72,266.31 ha (1%) was disturbed (but not permanently changed) over the last 25 years. LULCC was found to concentrate on two distinct periods (2000 to 2004 and 2010 to 2018) when social and economic stability allowed greater land clearing and investment opportunities. In addition, LULCC was found to impact forest reserves and protected areas. This new set of Sri Lanka-wide land cover information describing change and disturbance may provide a reference point for policy makers and other stakeholders to aid in decision making and for planning purposes.
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