Uttara Kannada is the only district in Karnataka, which has a forested area of about 80% and falls in the region of the Western Ghats. It is considered to be a very resourceful in terms of abundant natural resources and constitutes an important district in Karnataka. The forest resources of the district are under pressure as a large portion of the forested area has been converted to non-forestry activities since independence owing to the increased demands from human and animal population resulting in degradation of the forest ecosystem. This has led to poor productivity and regenerative capacity which is evident in the form of barren hill tops, etc in Coastal taluks of Uttara Kannada, entailing regular monitoring of the forest resources very essential. The classification of forest is a prerequisite for managing forest resources. Geographical Information System (GIS), allows the spatial and temporal analysis of the features of interest, and helps in solving the problem of deforestation and associated environmental and ecological problems. Spatial and temporal tools such as GIS and remotely sensed data helps the planners and decision makers in evolving the sustainable strategies for management and conservation of natural resources. Uttara Kannada district was classified on the basis of the land-use using supervised hard classifiers. The land use categories identified were urban area, water bodies, agricultural land, forest cover, and waste land. Further classification was carried out on the basis of forest type. The types of forest categorised were semi-evergreen, evergreen, moist deciduous, dry deciduous, plantations and scrub, thorny and non-forested area. The identified classes were correlated with the ground data collected during field visits. The observed results were compared with the historic data and the changes in the forest cover were analysed. From the assessment made it was clear that there has been a considerable degree of forest loss in certain areas of the district. It was also observed that plantations and social forests have increased drastically over the last fifteen years, and natural forests have declined.
Keywords: Western Ghats, Evergreen forests, vegetation mapping, land use, remote sensing, GIS