Geoecological integrity index for assessment and prioritisation of watersheds in the Indian northwestern Himalayan region using geoinformatics

Abstract

Biotic, abiotic and anthropogenic factors are considered in isolation for prioritisation of watersheds. Instead, it requires a multidisciplinary geoecolocical approach. The geoecology based prioritisation provides opportunities to assess the region by evaluating these multiple factors in combination. Thus, Geoecological Integrity Index (GII) was developed for prioritisation of Baner River watersheds of Indian northwestern Himalayan region by integrating biotic, abiotic and anthropogenic factors as the region is facing geological and ecological instability. Forest cover density and net primary productivity were used as biotic factors and drainage morphometry, soil erosion, and patches were used as abiotic factors. Population density of the watershed was considered as an anthropogenic factor. Weighed overlay analysis was carried out to understand the influence of each of these factors on watershed prioritisation. These factors were integrated to arrive at cumulative weights (GII) for micro-watersheds. With the help of GII, out of 110 micro-watersheds, 11 were prioritised as very high actionable, 32 as high actionable, 52 as moderately actionable and 15 as of minimal action, requiring suitable actions in a prioritised manner to conserve and manage. The study presents an approach for geoecological assessment of watersheds that can be replicated in watersheds of other Himalayan regions or areas having similar geoecological conditions.

Research highlights

  • Geoecological Integrity Index (GII) was developed for prioritisation of watersheds in Indian north-western Himalaya.

  • GII was developed considering biotic, abiotic and anthropogenic factors, which are generally treated in isolation.

  • Geoecological factors were integrated to arrive at cumulative weights (GII) for micro-watersheds.

  • Out of 110 micro-watersheds, 11 were prioritised as very high actionable, 32 as high actionable, 52 as moderately actionable and 15 as of minimal action, requiring suitable actions for its conservation and management.

  • Study provided an approach for geoecological assessment of watersheds that can be replicated in any other watersheds having similar conditions.

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Acknowledgements

AK expresses his gratitude to Dr Sanjay Kumar, Director, CSIR-IHBT, Palampur and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research for support and facilities under project MLP-206. The staff members of Environmental Technology division of CSIR-IHBT are acknowledged for their help. European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA Earth Observation data portals (USGS and LPDAAC) are acknowledged for making the Sentinel, LANDSAT, and MODIS data products available for downloads. Thanks are also due to anonymous reviewers whose valuable suggestions improved the manuscript. This is IHBT communication number 4350.

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Amit Kumar (AK) conceptualized the work, and carried out literature review, study design, data collection, data analysis, result interpretation and manuscript preparation. Sunil Kumar (SK) has prepared the maps and provided inputs for data analysis. Benidhar Deshmukh (BD) supervised the work and improved the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amit Kumar.

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Communicated by Abhijit Mukherjee

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Kumar, A., Kumar, S. & Deshmukh, B. Geoecological integrity index for assessment and prioritisation of watersheds in the Indian northwestern Himalayan region using geoinformatics. J Earth Syst Sci 130, 19 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12040-020-01537-3

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Keywords

  • Geoecology
  • geoinformatics
  • Himalaya
  • watershed prioritisation