Conservation-Induced Resettlement as a Driver of Land Cover Change in India: An Object-Based Trend Analysis

Student Authors

Fieldwork Assistants:

Ethan Dively '14, Gettysburg College

Jessie Pierce '14, Gettysburg College

GIS Analyst:

Heather Ipsen '15, Gettysburg College

Document Type


Publication Date



Environmental Studies


Located in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya, Rajaji National Park was established to protect and enhance the habitat of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and tiger (Panthera tigris). In 2002 the Van Gujjars, indigenous forest pastoralists, were voluntarily resettled from the Chilla Range (an administrative unit of Rajaji National Park) to Gaindikhata, a nearby area where they were granted land for agriculture. In this study we used a variety of remote sensing approaches to identify changes in land cover associated with the resettlement. The methods comprise two main approaches. First, we used object-based image analysis (OBIA) to identify the pre-resettlement land cover classes of use areas (representing agricultural expansion and adjacent areas of grazing, and collection of fuelwood and fodder) and recovery areas (representing areas where settlements were removed, and the adjacent areas of resource use). Secondly, we used trend analysis to assess the gradual and abrupt changes in vegetation that took place in use and recovery areas. To conduct the trend analysis we used BFAST (Breaks For Additive Season and Trend), which separates seasonal variation from long-term trends, and identifies breaks that can be linked back to disturbances or land cover changes. We found that the OBIA classification yielded high average class accuracies, and we were able to make class distinctions that would have been difficult to make using a traditional pixel-based approach. Pre-resettlement, the recovery areas were classified as mixed forest and riparian vegetation. In contrast, the use areas were classified primarily as grass dominated, brush dominated, and plantation forest, and were located relatively far away from riparian areas. Following the resettlement, the trend analysis showed a sudden change in the seasonal variation of NDVI in areas converted to agriculture. Areas neighboring the new agricultural land experienced sudden decreases in NDVI, suggestive of disturbances, at a higher rate than the same land cover types elsewhere. At the same time, these neighboring areas experienced a gradual overall increase in NDVI which could be caused by an expansion of leafy invasive shrubs such as Lantana camarain areas heavily used for biomass collection. The recovery areas also experienced a gradual increase in NDVI as well as sudden breaks to this trend, but we lacked evidence to connect these changes to the resettlement. Our findings support the claim that the resettlement has shifted pressure from more ecologically valuable to less ecologically valuable land cover types, and suggest that to some degree resource use pressure has increased outside the park. The study employs a novel synthesis of OBIA and trend analysis that could be applied to land change studies more broadly.


Original version is available from the publisher at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0143622816300157

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