History of Land Use in India During 1880–2010: Large-Scale Land Transformations Reconstructed from Satellite Data and Historical Archives (2014)

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In India, human population has increased six-fold from 200 million to 1200 million that coupled with economic growth has resulted in significant land use and land cover (LULC) changes during 1880–2010. However, large discrepancies in the existing LULC datasets have hindered our efforts to better understand interactions among human activities, climate systems, and ecosystem in India. In this study, we incorporated high-resolution remote sensing datasets from Resourcesat-1 and historical archives at district (N = 590) and state (N = 30) levels to generate LULC datasets at 5 arc minute resolution during 1880–2010 in India. Results have shown that a significant loss of forests (from 89 million ha to 63 million ha) has occurred during the study period. Interestingly, the deforestation rate was relatively greater under the British rule (1880–1950s) and early decades after independence, and then decreased after the 1980s due to government policies to protect the forests. In contrast to forests, cropland area has increased from 92 million ha to 140.1 million ha during 1880–2010. Greater cropland expansion has occurred during the 1950–1980s that coincided with the period of farm mechanization, electrification, and introduction of high yielding crop varieties as a result of government policies to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. The rate of urbanization was slower during 1880–1940 but significantly increased after the 1950s probably due to rapid increase in population and economic growth in India. Our study provides the most reliable estimations of historical LULC at regional scale in India. This is the first attempt to incorporate newly developed high-resolution remote sensing datasets and inventory archives to reconstruct the time series of LULC records for such a long period in India. The spatial and temporal information on LULC derived from this study could be used by ecosystem, hydrological, and climate modeling as well as by policy makers for assessing the impacts of LULC on regional climate, water resources, and biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial ecosystems.
Year: 2014
Language: English
In: Global and Planetary Change, 121 (0): 78-88 p.

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 Record created 2014-11-04, last modified 2014-11-04