Impact of land use and land cover changes on the habitat quality in an agriculture-dominated watershed in southern Georgia.

Authors: Suraj Upadhaya*, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Puneet Dwivedi, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change
Keywords: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services, Cellular Automata, Markov Chain, Watershed
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Buchanan, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Changes in land use and land cover (LULC) significantly affect forest-based ecosystem services including biodiversity conservation. It is crucial to understand LULC dynamics and its impacts on habitat quality for crafting efficient management solutions and effective policy prescriptions. We assessed the LULC dynamics and its effects on habitat quality in the Alabaha watershed located in southern Georgia. In the selected watershed, about 15,000 hectares of evergreen forestlands and grasslands have already been converted to blueberries between 2010 and 2017. We used satellite data from 2006, 2010, 2015, and 2017 to ascertain land use maps of the selected watershed. Using land use maps of 2006, 2010, and 2015, we predicted land use for 2017. We used field data for ascertaining the classification accuracy (89%) of the predicted 2017 land use map. Then, we used an integrated model combining Cellular Automata with Markov Chain analysis to predict the future land use for 2030 in the selected watershed. The results indicate that blueberry orchard would increase at the expense of evergreen forest and hay/pasture lands in the selected watershed. Further, we used InVEST Habitat Quality model to map changes in the habitat quality. We found that the habitat quality of the watershed declines rapidly relative to changes in land uses. The areas of high biodiversity quality were concentrated in regions with less-modified land cover. Our results suggest that innovative land use policy and integrated management strategies for the watershed are important for future management of biodiversity in the selected watershed.

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