Monitoring conservation effectiveness in a global biodiversity hotspot: the contribution of land cover change assessment

  • Shijo Joseph
  • George Alan Blackburn
  • Biswadip Gharai
  • S. Sudhakar
  • A. P. Thomas
  • M. S. R. Murthy


Tropical forests, which play critical roles in global biogeochemical cycles, radiation budgets and biodiversity, have undergone rapid changes in land cover in the last few decades. This study examines the complex process of land cover change in the biodiversity hotspot of Western Ghats, India, specifically investigating the effects of conservation measures within the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary. Current vegetation patterns were mapped using an IRS P6 LISS III image and this was used together with Landsat MSS data from 1973 to map land cover transitions. Two major and divergent trends were observed. A dominant degradational trend can be attributed to agricultural expansion and infrastructure development while a successional trend, resulting from protection of the area, showed the resilience of the system after prolonged disturbances. The sanctuary appears susceptible to continuing disturbances under the current management regime but at lower rates than in surrounding unprotected areas. The study demonstrates that remotely sensed land cover assessments can have important contributions to monitoring land management strategies, understanding processes underpinning land use changes and helping to inform future conservation strategies.


Remote sensing Change assessment Tropical forest Protected area management Western ghats 


  1. Annaselvam, J., & Parthasarathy, R. (1999). Inventories of understory plants in tropical evergreen forest in Anamalais, Western Ghats, India. Ecotropica, 5, 197–211.Google Scholar
  2. Bockstael, N., Costanza, R., Strand, I., Boyton, W., Bell, K., & Wagner, L. (1995). Ecological economic modelling and valuation of ecosystems. Ecological Economics, 14, 143–159. doi:10.1016/0921-8009(95)00026-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cairns, M. A., Haggerty, P. K., Alvarez, R., De Jong, B. H. J., & Olmsted, I. (2000). Tropical Mexico’s recent land-use change: A region’s contribution to the global carbon cycle. Ecological Applications, 10, 1426–1441. doi:10.1890/1051-0761(2000)010[1426:TMSRLU]2.0.CO;2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cincotta, R. P., Wisnewski, J., & Engelman, R. (2000). Human population in the biodiversity hotspots. Nature, 404, 990–992. doi:10.1038/35010105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cohen, W. B., Spies, T. A., Alig, R. J., Oetter, D. R., Maiersperger, T. K., & Fiorella, M. (2002). Characterizing 23 years (1972–95) of stand replacement disturbance in western Oregon forests with Landsat imagery. Ecosystems (New York, N.Y.), 5, 122–137. doi:10.1007/s10021-001-0060-X.Google Scholar
  6. Congreve, C. R. T. (1938). The anamalais. Madras: Tamil Nadu Forest Department.Google Scholar
  7. Coppin, P., Jonckhere, I., Nackarts, K., & Muys, B. (2004). Digital change detection methods in ecosystem monitoring: A review. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 25(9), 1565–1596. doi:10.1080/0143116031000101675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. ERDAS (2006). ERDAS Imagine tour guides, Leica Geosystems Geospatial Imaging, LLC.Google Scholar
  9. FAO (2001). Global forest resources assessment 2000. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization.Google Scholar
  10. Geist, H. J., & Lambin, E. F. (2001). What drives tropical deforestation? A meta-analysis of proximate and underlying causes of deforestation based on subnational case study evidence. Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium): LUCC International Project Office, LUCC Report Series no. 4.Google Scholar
  11. Geist, H. J., & Lambin, E. F. (2002). Proximate causes and underlying driving forces of tropical deforestation. Bioscience, 52, 143–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Houghton, R. A. (1999). The annual net flux of carbon to the atmosphere from changes in land use 1850–1990. Tellus, 51(B), 298–313Google Scholar
  13. Jensen, J. R., Cowen, D. J., Althausen, J. D., Narumalani, S., & Weathebee, O. (1993). An evaluation of the Coast watch change detection protocol in South Carolina. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 59, 1039–1046.Google Scholar
  14. Jha, C. S., Dutt, C. B. S., & Bawa, K. S. (2000). Deforestation and land use changes in Western Ghats, India. Current Science, 79(2), 231–238.Google Scholar
  15. Joseph, S. (2008). Assessment of landcover dynamics and its conservation implications in tropical forests of Western Ghats, India. Paper presented at the conference on conservation Science, 25–27 March. Cambridge University.Google Scholar
  16. Kalluri, S., Desch, A., Curry, T., Altstatt, A., Devers, D., Townshend, J. R. G., et al. (2001). Historical satellite data used to map Pan-Amazon forest cover. EOS Transactions, 82(18), 201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kumar, M. A., Singh, M., Srivastava, S. K., Udhayan, A., Kumar, H. N., & Sharma, A. K. (2002). Distribution patterns, relative abundance and management of mammals in Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 99(2), 184–210.Google Scholar
  18. Lu, D., Mausel, P., Brond’Zio, E., Moran, E. (2004). Change detection techniques. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 25(12), 2365–2407. doi:10.1080/0143116031000139863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mausel, P., Wu, Y., Li, Y., Moran, E. F., & Brondizio, E. S. (1993). Spectral identification of successional stages following deforestation in the Amazon. Geocarto International, 4, 61–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Menon, S., & Bawa, K. S. (1997). Application of GIS, remote sensing and landscape ecology approach to biodiversity conservation approach in the western ghats. Current Science, 73, 134–145.Google Scholar
  21. Myers, N., Mittermeier, R. A., Mittermeier, C. G., Da Fonseca, G. A. B., & Kent, J. (2000). Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature, 403, 853–858. doi:10.1038/35002501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nair, S. C. (1991). The southern western ghats: A biodiversity conservation plan. India: International Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.Google Scholar
  23. Nayar, M. P. (1996). Hotspots of endemic plants of India. India: Tropical Botanic Garden Research Institute.Google Scholar
  24. Nelson, R., & Holben, B. (1986). Identifying deforestation in Brazil using multiresolution satellite data. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 7, 429–448. doi:10.1080/01431168608954696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Olson, D. M., & Dinerstien, E. (1998). The global 200: A representative approach to conserving the earth’s most biologically valuable ecoregions. Conservation Biology, 12, 502–515. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1998.012003502.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pijanowski, B. C., Gage, S. H., & Long, D. T., & Cooper, W. E. (2000) A land transformation model for the Saginaw bay watershed. In J. Sanderson & L. D. Harris (Eds.), Landscape ecology—A top-down approach (pp. 162–178). Washington D. C.: Lewis Publishers.Google Scholar
  27. Prasad, S. N., Vijayan, L., Balachandran, S., Ramachandran, V. S., & Verghese, C. P. A. (1998). Conservation planning for the Western Ghats of Kerala: I. A GIS approach for location of biodiversity hot spots. Current Science, 75(3), 211–219.Google Scholar
  28. Ramesh, B. R., & Pascal, J. P. (1997) Atlas of endemics of the Western Ghats (India). Institute Francias de Pondicherry.Google Scholar
  29. Sader, S. A., Stone, T. A., & Joyce, A. T. (1990). Remote sensing of tropical forests: An overview of research and applications using non photographic sensors. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 56, 1343–1351.Google Scholar
  30. Sajeev, T. K., Srivastava, S. K., Raphael, M. G., Dutt, S., Ramachandran, N. K., & Tyagi, P. C. (2002). Management of forests in India for biological diversity and forests productivity: A new perspective—volume III: Anamalai Conservation Area (ACA). WII-USDA Forest Service Collaborative Project Report, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun.Google Scholar
  31. Sandler, T. (1993). Tropical deforestation—Markets and market failures. Land Economics, 69(3), 225–233. doi:10.2307/3146589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shi, H., Singh, A., Kant, S., Zhu, Z., & Waller, E. (2005). Integrating habitat status, human population pressure, and protection status into biodiversity conservation priority setting. Conservation Biology, 19, 1273–1285. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2005.00225.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Stibig, H.-J., & Achard, F. (2003). Assessment of tropical forest cover from satellite images at different geographical scales: Case studies from Southeast Asia. In P. S. Roy (Ed.), Geoinformatics for tropical ecosystems (pp. 33–48). Dehradun, India: Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh.Google Scholar
  34. Sundararaju, R. (1987). Management plan for Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary. Chennai: Office of the Chief Wildlife Warden.Google Scholar
  35. Townshend, J. R. G., Bell, V., Desch, A., Havlicek, C., Justice, C., et al. (1995). The NASA Landsat pathfinder humid tropical deforestation project. In Proceedings of land satellite information in the next decade. ASPRS Conference, Vienna, pp IV 76–87.Google Scholar
  36. Tunf, F., & Ellesworth, L. (1988). The determination of optimal threshold levels for change detection using various accuracy indices. Photogrammetric Engineering and remote Sensing, 54, 1449–1454.Google Scholar
  37. Turner, M. G., Wear, D. N., & Flamm, R. O. (1996). Land ownership and land-cover change in the Southern Appalachian Highlands and the Olympic Peninsula. Ecological Applications, 6, 1150–1172. doi:10.2307/2269599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Vanclay, J. K. (1993). Saving the tropical forest. Needs and prognosis. Ambio, 22(4), 225–231.Google Scholar
  39. Wibowo, D. H., & Byron, R. N. (1999). Deforestation mechanisms—a survey. International Journal of Social Economics, 26, 455–474. doi:10.1108/03068299910230099.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shijo Joseph
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • George Alan Blackburn
    • 3
  • Biswadip Gharai
    • 1
  • S. Sudhakar
    • 1
  • A. P. Thomas
    • 4
  • M. S. R. Murthy
    • 1
  1. 1.Forestry and Ecology DivisionNational Remote Sensing AgencyHyderabadIndia
  2. 2.GIS Centre, Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem AnalysisLund UniversityLundSweden
  3. 3.Department of GeographyLancaster UniversityLancasterUK
  4. 4.School of Environmental SciencesMahatma Gandhi UniversityKeralaIndia

Personalised recommendations