Identifying Systematic Land-Cover Transitions using Remote Sensing and GIS: The Fate of Forests Inside and Outside Protected Areas of Southwestern Ghana

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We use remote sensing and GIS to map changes in land cover and to identify systematic land-cover transitions in Southwestern Ghana. Landsat Thematic Mapper satellite imagery of 1990 and 2000 is used to create two land-cover classifications, and the two maps are then compared to produce transition matrices both for protected and for unprotected areas. These matrices are analyzed according to their various components to identify systematic landscape transitions based on deviations between the transitions observed and the transitions expected owing to random processes of change. The results show that closed forest regions inside the protected area transition systematically to bare ground or bush fire, but closed forest outside the protected area transitions systematically to open cultivated woodland. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that logging is the main cause of the loss of closed forest inside the protected areas whereas farming is the main cause of the loss of closed forest outside the protected areas. The research highlights the need for the implementation of this methodological approach to landscape change. Identification of strong signals of forest transformation is particularly important in the light of efforts by policy makers to curb deforestation in Ghana.



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