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Remote sensing of savanna vegetation changes in Eastern Zambia 1972-1989

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The use of the historical Landsat Multi-Spectral Scanner (MSS) archive to monitor changes in savanna vegetation between 1972 and 1989 in the South Luangwa National Park region, Eastern Zambia, was investigated. Land-cover types in the region were mapped and major changes in land cover from 1972 to 1989 were detected from MSS data. Woody canopy cover, which provides a quantitative measure of woodland structure, was estimated for woodland vegetation from MSS data using a linear relationship between woody canopy cover and red reflectance. The canopy cover changes estimated from MSS data agreed with those measured from multitemporal aerial photographs (r=0.94). Woody canopy cover changed significantly in the region from 1972 to 1989 and revealed strong spatial patterns of deforestation in Colophospermum mopane woodland on alluvial soils and vegetation regrowth of valley miombo vegetation and riverine woodland. This information on the spatial patterns of canopy cover change from 1972 to 1989 suggests certain criteria that any causative process must satisfy, and it provides a baseline for the National Park and Wildlife Services to manage the natural resources in the region. The canopy cover estimated from MSS data also provides an important input to biophysical and climatic process models for estimating the impact of vegetation structure on vegetation and climate processes.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 20, 2000

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