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This paper may be cited as follows: Das, P. and Joshi, S. 2011.

Land-use change detection (1988-1999) using NDVI in Barak Valley, Assam. Assam University Journal of Science & Technology: Biological and Environmental Sciences 8(1): 84-89

Land-use change detection (1988-1999) using NDVI in Barak Valley, Assam

Pulak Das1* & Santosh Joshi2
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*Dept. of Ecology and Environmental Science, Assam University, Silchar, Pin-788011 Lichenology Laboratory, Plant Biodiversity and Conservation Biology Division, National Botanical Research Institute, CSIR, Lucknow (UP)226001, INDIA Corresponding authors email id: Abstract

In the present study land-use change between 1988 and 1999 is studied for Barak valley region using remote sensing technique. Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) applying red and near infra red bands of landsat images (5 & 7) is used to classify the region into three categories; non forest areas (NDVI: -1 to 0.15), moderate forest cover (NDVI: 0.15 to 0.45), and dense forest cover (NDVI: 0.45 to 1). The result indicates marked difference in land use pattern between 1988 and 1999 in the region. The non forest cover which was 437.34 km2 (6.29% of the total geographical area) in 1988 increased to 1831 km2 (26.35% of the total geographical area) in 1999.On the other hand the dense forest area which was 4452.16 km2 (64.07 % of the total geographical area) in 1988 decreased to 2413.87 km2 (34.74 % of the total geographical area) in 1999. The moderate forest cover also showed its increase from 2058.91 km2 in 1988 to 2703.43 km2 in 1999. It is observed that a large area of moderate forests in 1988 has converted into non forest areas in 1999. Similarly the dense forest shows fragmentation and conversion into moderate forest between 1988 and 1999. Increase in population and related anthropogenic activities is mounting continuous pressure on the forest resource of this region, threatening overall biodiversity and local climate pattern. Key words: Forest loss, Land-use change, Population, Remote sensing Introduction Satellite images can capture a synoptic view of a large part of earths surface and can acquire repeated measurement of same area on a regular basis. Satellite remote sensing is an important source of data for studying the dynamics of earths surface. Remote sensing has been used as a tool for mapping land cover since sources of data became readily available in the 1970s. Remote sensing can provide an effective tool for measuring different forms of land-use changes including deforestation in different areas on the earth. Spectral, temporal, and textural differences in satellite images allow users to distinguish among broad classes of vegetation. The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), a proxy for photosynthetic activity, is commonly used for assessing landscape characteristics. It can be derived from readily available data (for example Landsat). NDVI is proportional to the fraction of photosynthetically-active radiation that is intercepted by green tissue (Myneni et al. 1995). It correlates with absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (APAR) estimating the aboveground net primary productivity (Jobbgy et al. 2002; Paruelo and Lauenroth 1998). It can be used to detect land cover changes (Fung and Siu 2000) and as an indicator of both landscape heterogeneity and biological diversity, making it possible to identify priority conservation areas (Gould 2000) and predict habitat suitability for species. The northeast India comprising of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and Sikkim is

situated at the confluence of three biogeographical realms; Indo-Malayan, IndoChinese, and Indian. The region along with Bhutan, southern China, and Myanmar is one of the global biodiversity centre known as Indo Burma biodiversity Hotspot (Myers 2000). The northeast region is important with respect to its diverse biota and high endemism owing to different habitat types suitable for different floral and faunal species. Barak valley consisting of three districts of Cachar, Karimganj, and Hailakandi is situated in southern part of Assam. It is the second largest valley system in northeastern region after Brahmaputra valley. The region covering a geographical area of 6948.41 km2 has eight physiographic divisions; i) High hill region, ii) Dissected foot hill region, iii) Low hill region, iv) Undulating plain, v) Detraital Valley, vi) Broad meander plain, vii) Flood plain, and viii) Low lying area (Bhowmick et al. 1999). Barak valley consists of swampy flats broken by numerous isolated hills of low ranges. The flat grounds are occupied by clayey alluvium and marked with depressions of varying sizes commonly known as beels and haors. There are 16 reserved forests in this region under Hailakandi division (2), Karimganj division (7), and Cachar division (7); namely i) Innerline R. F., ii) Katakhal R. F., iii) Badshaitilla R. F., iv) Duhalia R. F., v) Longai R. F., vi) Patharia R. F., vii) Singla R. F., viii) Tilbhum R. F., ix) N. C. Hills R. F., x) Borak R. F., xi) Innerline R. F., xii) Katakhal (Pt.) R. F., xiii) Lower Jiri R. F., xiv) Sonai R. F., xv) Upper Jiri R. F., and xvi) Borail R. F. The region has an average altitude of 27-40 m above mean sea level and falls between 248 N and 258 N latitude and 9215 E and 9315 E Longitude. Cachar is the largest district followed by Karimganj and Hailakandi. The valley is flanked by Southern belt of Barail range with an average width of 9-11 km and its eastern part is traversed by Bhuban range, a continuation of Lusai hills. The region had been endowed with rich forests which can be predicted by the record of wild animals which were present here and some of which are still found in the area. To manage our forest resources in an effective manner it is important to first know how much resource we possess and understand the forest

dynamics with respect to its degradation rate. The rate of forest degradation or forest loss can be estimated with the help of temporal studies. A continuous monitoring with the help of modern remote sensing techniques is of utmost importance. In the present study an attempt has been made to evaluate the changes in forest cover of the region within an eleven year period between 1988 and 1999. Remote sensing Landsat imageries are used for this purpose. NDVI value ranges between (-) 1 to (+) 1 and has been found to be effective worldwide to detect vegetation changes (Guo et al. 1999; Sobrino and Raissouni 2000). Materials and methods The site selected for the study is Barak valley (Figure 1) which has subtropical, warm, and humid climate. The heavy rainfall in the region is due to south-west monsoonal spells which operates comparatively for longer period in north east India. The monsoon period runs between June and October with short premonsoon period between March and April. The summer temperature remains between 25 and 40C. The humidity remains high throughout the year. The satellite imageries of the region are taken for the year 1988 and 1999 for the months of November and December respectively. To avoid seasonal differences of green cover due to different weather conditions, cloud free images during post monsoon months of November and December is selected. The region lies in a single scene of Path 136 and Row 43 (Table 1). The Bands 3 (Red) and 4 (NIR) are used for calculation of NDVI. The software IDRISI (Version-Taiga) was used for the image processing. The required scene is selected with the help of geo-referenced Barak valley shape file within WRS Path and Row grid. The ratio of subtraction and addition of near infra red (NIR) and red bands is calculated and NDVI map is produced. The Barak valley region is then masked out from the NDVI map of entire scene. These steps are repeated for the images of both years. The NDVI, often referred to as the greenness index, is derived from a ratio of NIR and RED bands via the algorithm: NDVI = (NIR-RED)/ (NIR+RED)

The NDVI map is categorized according to three groups; i) -1 to 0.15, ii) 0.15 to 0.45, and iii) 0.45 to 1 into Non-forest, low density forest, and High density forest types respectively. Result The two NDVI maps clearly depict the visual changes in land-use cover of the region between 1988 and 1999 (Figure 2). From table 2 it can be said that the total geographical area of the region is 6948.41 km2 of which 437.34 km2 was non forest area in 1988. The moderate forest cover was 2058.91 km2 and the dense forest cover was 4452.16 km2. In the year 1999 the non forest area increased to 1831 km2. The moderate forest cover in the year 1999 was 2703.43 km2 and the dense forest cover was 2413.87 km2. The percentage of dense forest cover which was 64.07 of the total geographical area in 1988 reduced to only 34.74 of total geographical area in eleven years in 1999. Within the same time period non forest areas increased from 6.29% to 26.35% of the total geographical area. The increase in the non forest area in a decade is observed to be a whopping 318.69%, whereas the moderate forest cover area shows a decadal growth of over 31.30%. The growths in both these classes are appeared to be at the cost of dense forest cover which shows a decadal decrease of about 45.78% during the same period. Within a period of eleven years the forest degraded 2038.29 km2 with an average rate of 185.27 km2 per year. Discussion NDVI, the normalized difference of brightness values from the near infrared and visible red bands, has been found to be highly correlated with crown closure, leaf area index, and other vegetation parameters (Tucker, 1979; Sellers, 1985; Singh, 1986; Running et al., 1986). There are different opinions regarding NDVI classification and land-use categories. Normally NDVI less than 0.1 is considered as nonvegetated (Running et al. 1995), NDVI~0.3 for scarce vegetation, and NDVI~0.6 for dense vegetation (Benhadj et al. 2007). While some workers have mentioned that a value between

0.2 and 0.8 can be considered as a common range for green vegetation (Kumar et al. 2010), Alganci et al. (2010) found a range of 0.05 to 0.25 representing healthy vegetation. Zakharova et al. (2003) observed that NDVI has negative values for water surfaces, positive near zero values for bare soils and rocks, and high positive values up to 1 for vegetation. Vegetated landscapes typically have NDVI values ranging from 0.1 in the desert to 0.8 in dense tropical rain forest (Hassani et al. 2006), midrange values represent shrub and grassland (0.2 to 0.3) ecosystems, whereas high values indicate temperate and tropical rainforests (0.6 to 0.8) (Weier & Herring 2008). Sobrino and Raissouni (2000) demonstrated that when NDVI values are between 0.0 and 0.2, the pixel is considered bare soil; and for NDVI values greater than 0.5, the pixel is considered fully vegetated. In the present study, NDVI values from -1 to 0.15 are categorized as non forest class which also includes the water bodies. In the first image (1988), it can be observed that the moderate forests (NDVI: 0.15 to 0.45) are predominantly spread along with the rivers. As human habitation mainly concentrates near water (rivers and lakes) their activities might have converted dense forests into moderate ones. Further from second image (1999) we can observe the conversion of moderate forests into non forests, and also the fragmentation of dense forests (NDVI: 0.45 to 1) into moderate forests in the same areas. Barak valley, which is situated in the global biodiversity hot spot, once boasted of harbouring rich floral and faunal diversity. The forest loss is related with the biodiversity loss. The rich biodiversity of Barak valley is mentioned in old literatures. Hunter (1879) mentioned about some wild life species such as Mithun, Sambhar, Boa constrictor, Barking deer, Barahsingha, Tiger, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Musk rat, Civet cat which were earlier found in Barak valley but some of which are not found at present. The names of the places also indicates towards the presence of rich wildlife such as Gondarcherra (GondarRhinoceros) Baghmara, (Bagh-Tiger) Bhalukmara, (Bhaluk-Bear) Hathicherra, (Hathi-Elephant) Kumbhirgram (KumbhirCrocodile), Bualmara, (Bual-Fish),

Harincherra, (Harin-Dear). The region still harbours important plants and animal species. Some examples of rich wildlife may be found in recent literatures as follows; Ichthyodiversity (Kar et al. 2006), Gharials (Saikia et al. 2010), White-backed Vulture-Gyps benghalensis (Gmelin) and Lesser Adjutant-Leptotilos javanicus (Deb & Gupta 2010), Phayre's leafmonkey (Choudhury 2006). Increasing population and related anthropogenic pressure in Barak valley is leading to clearing of forests because of various socio-economic reasons. Gupta (2001) for example reported that the landscape of Cachar district has undergone widespread fragmentation due to total clearing of forests and reclamation of wetlands for setting up tea gardens, agriculture and urbanization. The trend of urbanization in Assam has been increasing owing to immigration from neighbouring country. Among the states of India, Assam has got the largest population of persons born outside the state (Bhattacharjee & Adhikari 2006). Conclusion The decadal growth rate (1991-2001) in Assam was 36.24%, and in Barak valley it was 19.96 %. In the three important towns of Barak valley (Silchar, Hailakandi, and Karimganj) the decadal population growth rate (1991-2001) ranged between 16.31 and 23.30%. According to census report of India the population of Barak valley in 1991 was 24.91 lakhs which rose to over 29 lakhs in 2001. These indicate towards the continuously mounting anthropogenic pressure in the region and its affect on the natural resources like forests. These forests consist of many important plants and animals which need to be properly documented and protected. The forest loss rate in the region is observed to be higher than many other areas. The widespread destruction of forests may enhance habitat degradation and may lead to loss of biodiversity from this region forever. We need proper documentation and adequate data on the forest degradation and other land-use changes. Remote sensing using modern tools and softwares give us the scope to work in a detailed way and detect the changes in forest dynamics which otherwise may not be possible. We can prepare data bases like forest loss maps on yearly basis for different

reserved forests separately and can monitor the change. We can also monitor the favourable changes in small scale areas and can correlate it with the different steps being taken to prevent the forest loss.

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Figure 2.Land-use in Barak valley (1988 &1999) on basis of NDVI classification

Table.1 Satellite data used in the study Year Features Spacecraft ID Sensor ID Acquisition date WRS PATH WRS ROW 1999 Landsat 7 ETM+ 1999-12-19 136 043 1988 Landsat 5 TM 1988-11-10 136 043

Table. 2 Land use types in Barak valley in 1988 and 1999 Area (km2) Year S. No. Land use category 1 2 3 Non forest areas Moderate forest cover Dense forest cover 437.34 (6.29) 2058.91(29.63) 4452.16 (64.07) 1831.11 (26.35) 2703.43 (38.91) 2413.87 (34.74) 1393.77 644.52 -2038.29 1988(%) 1999(%) Change