Accessibility, Demography and Protection: Drivers of Forest Stability and Change at Multiple Scales in the Cauvery Basin, India

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"The Cauvery basin of Karnataka State encompasses a range of land cover types, from dense forest areas and plantations in the Western Ghats hills, to fertile agricultural lands in the river valley. Recent demographic changes, rapid economic development and urbanization have led to the conversion of vast stretches of forested land into plantations and permanent agriculture. We examine the human drivers of forest cover change between 2001 and 2006, using MODIS 250 m data at multiple spatial scales of nested administrative units i.e., districts and taluks. Population density does not emerge as a major driver of forest distribution or deforestation. Protected areas and landscape accessibility play a major role in driving the distribution of stable forest cover at different spatial scales. The availability of forested land for further clearing emerges as a major factor impacting the distribution of deforestation, with new deforestation taking place in regions with challenging topography. This research highlights the importance of using a regional approach to study land cover change, and indicates that the drivers of forest change may be very different in long settled landscapes, for which little is known in comparison to frontier forests."
deforestation, demography, land tenure and use, forests--tropics