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Eighty years of land use/cover change in a semi-arid area of Northern Ethiopia

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Abstract
In the Highlands of Northern Ethiopia, land degradation is claimed to have occurred over a long time mainly due to the occurrence of longstanding plough-based agricultural civilization. However, quantitative information on the long term land use and cover changes is rare. The knowledge of such historical changes is essential for the present and future land management and for sustainable development, especially in an agriculture-based economy. Hence, this study aims to investigate the changes of land use and cover in the Geba catchment (Northern Ethiopia) over the last 80 years (1935 – 2014). We used 134 aerial photographs taken by the Italian Military Geographical Institute at an approximate scale of 1:11,500 in 1935, and compared to Google Earth images (2014) to analyse changes. The aerial photographs are located along 15 flight lines fairly distributed over the catchment. The analysed scenes cover a total area of 624 km2 which is 11% of the Geba catchment. The pointcount technique was used by overlaying a grid of 18 x 15 points (small squares) on 20 cm x 15 cm aerial photographs and on Google Earth images representing the same area. The occurrence of major land cover types (cropland, forestland, grassland, shrubland, bareland, built-up areas and water body) at the position of these squares was counted to compute their proportion in 1935 and 2014. The results indicate significant changes of all land use and cover classes, except for forest and cropland. The proportion of forest and shrubland is less at present time while all other classes showed an increase. In 1935, shrubland (49%) was the dominant land cover followed by cropland (40%). The proportion of cropland at present (42%) remains approximately the same as in the 1930s, while shrubland significantly dropped to 37%. The proportion of croplands was maintained over the past long period whereby shrubland and forest was reclaimed, to compensate for abandoned cropland. The increased proportion of built-up areas also explains the decline in shrubland. On the studied aerial photographs, forests have further shrinked from a meagre 5% in the 1930s to only 1% at present time. The increased area of open water and decreased bare land, on the other hand, is related to the ongoing land management practices in the region. These results confirm previous studies that severe land degradation has occurred in the Highlands of Northern Ethiopia over a long time due to early (pre-1935) cropland expansion and deforestation.
Keywords
Cropland, Land use, Italian aerial photographs, Shrubland

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Chicago
Dinssa, Etefa Guyassa, Amaury Frankl, Amanuel Zenebe, Sil Lanckriet, Mullaw Biadgilgn-Demissie, Gebreyohanis Zenebe, Jean Poesen, and Jan Nyssen. 2016. “Eighty Years of Land Use/cover Change in a Semi-arid Area of Northern Ethiopia.” In Ghent Africa Platform, 10th Symposium, Abstracts, 58–58.
APA
Dinssa, E. G., Frankl, A., Zenebe, A., Lanckriet, S., Biadgilgn-Demissie, M., Zenebe, G., Poesen, J., et al. (2016). Eighty years of land use/cover change in a semi-arid area of Northern Ethiopia. Ghent Africa Platform, 10th Symposium, Abstracts (pp. 58–58). Presented at the 10th Symposium of Ghent Africa Platform (GAPSYM-10): Celebrating partnership with Africa : demonstrating the value of international collaboration on teaching and research.
Vancouver
1.
Dinssa EG, Frankl A, Zenebe A, Lanckriet S, Biadgilgn-Demissie M, Zenebe G, et al. Eighty years of land use/cover change in a semi-arid area of Northern Ethiopia. Ghent Africa Platform, 10th Symposium, Abstracts. 2016. p. 58–58.
MLA
Dinssa, Etefa Guyassa, Amaury Frankl, Amanuel Zenebe, et al. “Eighty Years of Land Use/cover Change in a Semi-arid Area of Northern Ethiopia.” Ghent Africa Platform, 10th Symposium, Abstracts. 2016. 58–58. Print.
@inproceedings{8500297,
  abstract     = {In the Highlands of Northern Ethiopia, land degradation is claimed to have occurred over a long time mainly due to the occurrence of longstanding plough-based agricultural civilization. However, quantitative information on the long term land use and cover changes is rare. The knowledge of such historical changes is essential for the present and future land management and for sustainable development, especially in an agriculture-based economy. Hence, this study aims to investigate the changes of land use and cover in the Geba catchment (Northern Ethiopia) over the last 80 years (1935 -- 2014). We used 134 aerial photographs taken by the Italian Military Geographical Institute at an approximate scale of 1:11,500 in 1935, and compared to Google Earth images (2014) to analyse changes. The aerial photographs are located along 15 flight lines fairly distributed over the catchment. The analysed scenes cover a total area of 624 km2 which is 11\% of the Geba catchment. The pointcount technique was used by overlaying a grid of 18 x 15 points (small squares) on 20 cm x 15 cm aerial photographs and on Google Earth images representing the same area. The occurrence of major land cover types (cropland, forestland, grassland, shrubland, bareland, built-up areas and water body) at the position of these squares was counted to compute their proportion in 1935 and 2014. The results indicate significant changes of all land use and cover classes, except for forest and cropland. The proportion of forest and shrubland is less at present time while all other classes showed an increase. In 1935, shrubland (49\%) was the dominant land cover followed by cropland (40\%). The proportion of cropland at present (42\%) remains approximately the same as in the 1930s, while shrubland significantly dropped to 37\%. The proportion of croplands was maintained over the past long period whereby shrubland and forest was reclaimed, to compensate for abandoned cropland. The increased proportion of built-up areas also explains the decline in shrubland. On the studied aerial photographs, forests have further shrinked from a meagre 5\% in the 1930s to only 1\% at present time. The increased area of open water and decreased bare land, on the other hand, is related to the ongoing land management practices in the region. These results confirm previous studies that severe land degradation has occurred in the Highlands of Northern Ethiopia over a long time due to early (pre-1935) cropland expansion and deforestation.},
  author       = {Dinssa, Etefa Guyassa and Frankl, Amaury and Zenebe, Amanuel and Lanckriet, Sil and Biadgilgn-Demissie, Mullaw and Zenebe, Gebreyohanis and Poesen, Jean and Nyssen, Jan},
  booktitle    = {Ghent Africa Platform, 10th Symposium, Abstracts},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Ghent, Belgium},
  pages        = {58--58},
  title        = {Eighty years of land use/cover change in a semi-arid area of Northern Ethiopia},
  year         = {2016},
}