Background: Landscapes consist of heterogeneous interacting dynamic elements with complex ecological, economic and cultural attributes. These complex interactions help in the sustenance of natural resources through bio-geochemical and hydrological cycling. The ecosystem functions are altered with changes in the landscape structure. Fragmentation of large contiguous forests to small and isolated forest patches either by natural phenomena or anthropogenic activities leads to drastic changes in forest patch sizes, shape, connectivity and internal heterogeneity, which restrict the movement leading to inbreeding among Meta populations with extirpation of species.
Methods: Landscape dynamics are assessed through land use analysis by way of remote sensing data acquired at different time periods. Forest fragmentation is assessed at the pixel level through computation of two indicators, i.e., Pf (the ratio of pixels that are forested to the total non-water pixels in the window) and Pff (the proportion of all adjacent (cardinal directions only) pixel pairs that include at least one forest pixel, for which both pixels are forested).
Results: Uttara Kannada District has the distinction of having the highest forest cover in Karnataka State, India. This region has been experiencing changes in its forest cover and consequent alterations in functional abilities of its ecosystem. Temporal land use analyses show the trend of deforestation, evident from the reduction of evergreen - semi evergreen forest cover from 57.31% (1979) to 32.08% (2013) Forest fragmentation at the landscape level shows a decline of interior forests 64.42% (1979) to 25.62% (2013) and transition of non-forest categories such as crop land, plantations and built-up areas, amounting now to 47.29%. PCA prioritized geophysical and socio variables responsible for changes in the landscape structure at local levels.
Conclusion: Terrestrial forest ecosystems in Uttara Kannada District of Central Western Ghats have been experiencing threats due to deforestation with land use changes and fragmentation of contiguous forests, as is evident from the decline of interior forests and consequent increases in patch, transitional, edge and perforated forests. Interior or intact forest cover in this ecologically fragile region is now 25.62%. Considering the accelerating rates of forest fragmentation in recent times, the focus should be on reforestation and regeneration of natural vegetation to sustain food and water security and the livelihood of local populations. This requires innovation with holistic approaches in the management of forests by involving all local stakeholders to minimize the encroachment of forests, and improvements in regeneration.
Keywords: Land use dynamics; Forest fragmentation; Interior forests; Biodiversity; Geophysical variables
Citation : Ramachandra T.V., bharath Setturu, Subash chandran, Geospatial analysis of fragmentation in uttara kannada district,India, T V et al. Forest Ecosystems (2016) 3:10DOI 10.1186/s40663-016-0069-4