The Impacts of Changes in Land Use on Woodlands in an Equatorial African Savanna
Land Degradation and Development
Restoration and Conservation Biology Research Group, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, WITS, Johannesburg, Private Bag 3, Johannesburg, South Africa; Centre for African Ecology, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, WITS, Johannesburg, Private Bag 3, Johannesburg, South Africa; School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Makerere University, PO Box7062, Kampala, Uganda
Savanna landscapes are vitally important in providing both ecological and economic services that sustain local livelihoods and national economies, particularly for sub-Saharan African countries whose economies are mainly agrarian. Development prospects in savanna landscapes are however dependent on actions to avoid and to slow or reverse degradation and that are aided with a clear understanding of trends in land use/cover changes, their causes and implications for conservation. We analysed land use/cover changes based on three Landsat satellite images (1984, 1995 and 2000/2001) and the influence of human utilization on the changes in an equatorial African savanna, central Uganda, for the period 1984-2000/2001. The land cover classification and change analysis clearly identified the dominant land cover types, revealing a severe reduction in woodland cover with dense woodlands decreasing by 64%, over a 17-year period. Consequently, medium woodland, open woodland and cultivation/settlements areas cover increased by 31%, 3% and 80%, respectively. The cover change analysis results were corroborated with interview results that also attributed the woodland cover loss to increasing commercial charcoal production, expanding livestock grazing, subsistence crop cultivation and an insecure land use tenure system. Indeed, the major land use types in the savanna are charcoal production, shifting crop cultivation and livestock rearing. The decreasing woody vegetation cover threatens the savanna's ability to continue providing ecosystems services to support the livelihoods of people who mainly depend on natural resources and are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Agriculture; Charcoal; Climate change; Crops; Cultivation; Ecology; Economics; Satellite imagery; Bio-mass energy; Charcoal production; Landsat imagery; Livelihoods; Livestock grazing; Subsistence agriculture; Woodlands; Land use