An assessment of changes in land use/cover patterns in the Albert Falls area, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Yemane, Mehreteab Michael.
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The Albert Falls Area had witnessed severe competition over land use between agriculture, recreation, conservation and other land uses. The area also has been the scene for inefficient land management that led to degradation of land resources. For proper land use planning and environmental management, information on land use/cover change is vital. This study has developed a spatial and descriptive historical land use/cover databases for the years 1944, 1967, 1989, and 2000 to provide an understanding of land use/cover patterns in Albert Falls Area. The databases were created by interpreting historical aerial photographs and using Geographic Information Systems. The data was subsequently analyzed to detect relevant trends in land use/cover patterns in the study area. Generally land use/cover pattern of Albert Falls Area during the period 1944 to 2000 may be described as being mainly agricultural. The results showed a marginal increase of indigenous forests attributed to the continuous efforts by different governmental departments and policies that focused on the protection of the remaining patches of indigenous forests. Grassland not only decreased by more than half but it also deteriorated in quality during 1944 to 2000. Commercial Forestry predominates the study area and showed an increasing trend from 1944 to 1967. Cultivated Land was observed to decrease at the expense of Commercial Forestry plantations and Waterbodies. Although sugarcane plantations increased after 1967, total Cultivated Land showed a decreasing trend. The construction of Albert Falls Dam and other small Farm Ponds within the agricultural farms increased the land areas covered by Waterbodies. Residential Area coverage generally decreased irrespective of the encroachment of informal settlements, while that outside Non-Residential Area and Transportation Routes generally increased with the development of commercial agriculture in the area. Barren Land decreased continuously due to higher land demand in the study area. The study showed that land use/cover changes in Albert Falls Area. have resulted in habitat fragmentation, development of monoculture land use, flourishing of Farm Ponds in agricultural farms, and expansion of agricultural activities on marginal lands. Creation of corridors/linkages between the fragmented forest patches; commencement and implementation of the already well drafted land and land resource policies and regulations; commencement of the holistic management plans in the area were recommended for a sustainable land use.
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