Landscape Change – Why study landscape change?
Knowing how landscape has changed over time provides valuable information for conservation land managers and for guiding community development and restoration efforts.
Babeldaob Island contains the largest area of intact native lowland forest in the Pacific. The forests of Babeldaob are the most diverse forests in Micronesia and are vital to maintain Babeldaob’s watersheds, near shore environment, and forest resources. To understand where and how much forests and vegetation have changed over time on Babeldaob, a collaborative group from the Palau Coral Reef Research Foundation, the USDA Forest Service, and Palau Forestry analyzed historical aerial photos and satellite imagery over a 60 year time period of 4 land cover categories: forest, mangrove, non-forest vegetation (savanna), and non-vegetation (i.e., roads, buildings). This method allows us to understand how the landscape of Babeldaob has changed over time.
Manual classification was used to classify aerial photos from 1947, 1976, and 1992 and automated classification was used to classify satellite imagery from 2001 and 2005. Maps of Babeldaob Island land cover over time and detailed images from Melekeok state showing specific areas of forest cover increase and areas where forest had been cleared between mapped periods. Babeldaob has a moderately fragmented landscape with relatively stable forest interiors and dynamic forest and savanna edges. Forest cover has been increasing, despite some forest edge clearance and increases of non-vegetation from road construction and other urban development.