Woody cover change in relation to fire history and land-use in the savanna-woodlands of north-east Namibia (1996–2019)

Publication Year:

Vegetation cover estimates for trees, shrub-grass mosaics, and grassland and bare ground, were quantified in the savanna-woodland of Bwabwata National Park, north-east Namibia. Changes in woody cover were analysed using repeat photographs in combination with aerial photographs and recent satellite imagery taken between 1996 and 2019. Cover estimates for each vegetation type were obtained using object-based classification techniques and a non-parametric random forest classifier algorithm in eCognition Trimble software. Results show that over the two decades under investigation (1996–2019), trees declined (−10.6%), and the shrub-grass mosaic vegetation type increased (8.1%) across the park. The largest decline in trees occurred in the western land use areas (−36%), which also experienced the greatest increase in the shrub-grass mosaic (17%), when compared with areas in the east (11%). Variation of woody cover estimates is attributed to different seasonal fire management practices in the east versus the west of the park. The fire history (2000–2018) revealed that late dry season fires were frequent in the west, whereas in the east, early dry season fires were frequent. The stages of encroachment recorded in this study have consequences for biodiversity, people’s livelihoods, and tourism. Keywords: bush encroachment, bwabwata National Park, fire seasonality, repeat photography, vegetation structure.

Publication Title:

African Journal of Range and Forage Science

Item Type:
Journal Article

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