The Garhwal Himalaya has experienced extensive deforestation and forest fragmentation, but data and documentation detailing this transformation of the Himalaya are limited. The aim of this study is to analyse the observed changes in land cover and forest fragmentation that occurred between 1976 and 2014 in the Garhwal Himalayan region in India. Three images from Landsat 2 Multispectral Scanner System (MSS), Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM), and Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) were used to extract the land cover maps. A cross-tabulation detection method in the geographic information system (GIS) module was used to detect land cover changes during the 1st period (1976–1998) and 2nd period (1998–2014). The landscape fragmentation tool LFT v2.0 was used to construct a forest fragmentation map and analyse the forest fragmentation pattern and change during the 1st period (1976–1998) and 2nd period (1998–2014). The overall annual rate of change in the forest cover was observed to be 0.22% and 0.27% in the 1st period (1976–1998) and 2nd period (1998–2014), respectively. The forest fragmentation analysis shows that a large core forest has decreased throughout the study period. The total area of forest patches also increased from 1976 to 2014, which are completely degraded forests. The results indicate that anthropogenic activities are the main causes of the loss of forest cover and forest fragmentation, but that natural factors also contributed. An increase in the area of scrub and barren land also contributed to the accumulation of wasteland or non-forest land in this region. Determining the trend and the rate of land cover conversion is necessary for development planners to establish a rational land use policy.
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