Landscapes as continuous entities: forest disturbance and recovery in the Albertine Rift landscape


Kibale National Park, within the Albertine Rift, is known for its rich biodiversity. High human population density and agricultural conversion in the surrounding landscape have created enormous resource pressure on forest fragments outside the park. Kibale presents a complex protected forest landscape comprising intact forest inside the park, logged areas inside the park, a game corridor with degraded forest, and forest fragments in the landscape surrounding the park. To explore the effect of these different levels of forest management and protection over time, we assessed forest change over the previous three decades, using both discrete and continuous data analyses of satellite imagery. Park boundaries have remained fairly intact and forest cover has been maintained or increased inside the park, while there has been a high level of deforestation in the landscape surrounding the park. While absolute changes in land cover are important changes in vegetation productivity, within land cover classes are often more telling of longer term changes and future directions of change. The park has lower Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) values than the forest fragments outside the park and the formerly logged area—probably due to forest regeneration and early succession stage. The corridor region has lower productivity, which is surprising given this is also a newer regrowth region and so should be similar to the logged and forest fragments. Overall, concern can be raised for the future trajectory of this park. Although forest cover has been maintained, forest health may be an issue, which for future management, climate change, biodiversity, and increased human pressure may signify troubling signs.



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Landscape Ecology



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