ABSTRACT The importance of accurate and timely information describing the nature and extent of land resources and changes over time is increasing, especially in mountainous areas. We have developed a methodology to map and monitor land cover change using multitemporal Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) and ASTER data in Zagros mountains of Iran for 1990, 1998, and 2006.Land-use/cover mapping is achieved through interpreta-tion of Landsat TM satellite images of 1990, 1998 and TERRA-ASTER image of 2006 using ENVI 4.3. Based on the Anderson land-use/cover classification system, the land-use and land-covers are classified as forest land, rangeland, water bodies, agricultural land and residential land. The unsupervised image classifi-cation method carried out prior to field visit, in order to determine strata for ground truth. Fieldwork carried out to collect data for training and validating land-use/cover interpretation from satellite image of 2006, and for qualitative description of the characteristics of each land-use/cover class. The land-use/cover maps of 1990, 1998 and 2006 were produced by using supervised image classification technique based on the Maxi-mum Likelihood Classifier (MLC) and 132 training samples. Error matrices as cross-tabulations of the mapped class vs. the reference class were used to assess classification accuracy. Overall accuracy, user’s and producer’s accuracies, and the Kappa statistic were then derived from the error matrices. A multi-date post-classification comparison change detection algorithm was used to determine changes in land cover in three intervals, 1990–1998, 1998–2006 and 1990–2006. To evaluate the change maps for the 1990 to 2006 interval, we randomly sampled the areas that classified as change and no-change and determined whether they were correctly classified. The maps showed that between 1990 and 2006 the amount of forest land de-creased from 67% to 38.5% of the total area, while rangelands, agriculture, settlement and surface water in-creased from 30.8% to 45%, 1.2% to 7.0%, 0.3% to 7.5% and 0.6% to 1.8%, respectively. The area was dominated by 35.9%, 28.9% and 29.3% dense forest, 42.2%, 46.4% and 43.2% open forest and 21.9%, 24.8% and 27.5% degraded forest in 1990, 1998 and 2006, respectively. During 16 years span period (1990-2006) about 10170.3 ha, 2963.4 ha, 351.7 ha and 3039.2 ha of forest lands were converted to range-land, agriculture, water body and settlement. The overall five-class classification accuracies averaged 78.6% for the three years. The overall accuracy of land cover change maps, generated from post-classification change detection methods and evaluated using several approaches, reached to 80.1%. The results quantify the land cover change patterns in the Zagrous highlands and demonstrate the potential of multitemporal Landsat and ASTER data to provide an accurate, economical means to map and analyze changes in land cover over time that can be used as inputs to land management and policy decisions.
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