Change in vegetation cover in East Timor, 1989–1999

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Forest resources play a key role and provide many basic needs to communities in developing economies. To assess the patterns of vegetation cover change, as a corollary of resource utilization, satellite imagery, ground truth data, and image processing techniques can be useful. This article is concerned with identifying change in major vegetation types in East Timor between 1989 and 1999, using Landsat Thematic Mapper data. The results highlight a significant level of deforestation and decline in foliage cover. All major vegetation cover types declined from 1989 to 1999, and there was a sizeable increase in degraded woodlands. This decline has had considerable impact on the livelihoods of rural and urban communities. Causes for these changes include: economic exploitation of abundant resources; and implications of transmigration policies implemented during Indonesian rule, resulting in increased competition for land and woodland resources. As the new nation of Timor-Leste establishes itself, it must consider its current stock and distribution of natural capital to ensure that development efforts are geared towards sustainable outcomes. Without the knowledge of historical patterns of resource consumption, development efforts may, unwittingly, lead to continuing decline in forest resources.

Keywords: Deforestation; Dense forest; Forest; Natural resources management; Remote sensing; Timor-Leste; Vegetation cover; Woodland

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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