Remote sensing analysis on primary productivity and forest cover dynamics: A Western Ghats India case study

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Ecological Informatics


Tropical forest ecosystems are among the most essential habitats on Earth for conserving biological diversity and short-term climate regulation. For this reason, they are key areas of conservation policies in the world. In this paper, we aim to investigate the dynamics of forest cover and their changes in primary productivity by empowering information on historical forest management and fieldwork research with remote sensing vegetation monitoring methods. The study area falls within the central portion of the Indian Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot. In particular, part of the analysis was performed on the Kadamakal Reserve Forest and Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, which harbours an endemic low elevation dipterocarp evergreen forest. This area was managed by selective logging and became fully protected in 1984. We performed multiple time series macroscale analyses between 1999 and 2020 on the Indian Central Western Ghats region, using satellite products at 1 km spatial resolution from the VITO Copernicus Global Land Service on Dry Matter Productivity, Fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation, and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index. We also performed a very-high spatial resolution Normalised Difference Vegetation Index differential analysis between 2021 and 2016 with Sentinel 2-L2A products to investigate forest dynamics within the reserve. At the 1 km spatial resolution has been found an increase in all three vegetation indices, by employing the LOESS statistical method for the smoothed transition autoregressive model of raster data medians of our datasets. The boxplot raster distribution analysis also highlighted a significant imbalance in dry matter productivity in the last decade (2010−2020) comparing the previous one (1999–2009). The second part of the analysis, at 10 m spatial resolution within the reserve forest, revealed a growth in the vegetation cover on the top of the Pushpagiri Mountain ridge and in a previously landslide area. The study found new erosion channels down to the upper plateau on the South-West side of the reserve due to an increment of the run-off processes during the monsoon period. This satellite analysis highlighted generalised positive vegetation trends in the Central Western Ghats, India, over the last twenty-two years, enhancing an improvement in the ecosystem functioning and carbon storage ecosystem service. Notably, through this work, we also developed a standardised and open-access framework to monitor the vegetation remotely (SVIT) during periods of forest inaccessibility for fieldwork sampling.



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