Land Use Trends Analysis Using SPOT 5 Images and Its Effect on the Landscape of Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Mohd Hasmadi Ismail, Che Ku Akmar Che Ku Othman, Ismail Adnan Abd Malek, and Saiful Arif Abdullah

Abstract A large part of the steep mountain land in Peninsular Malaysia is covered by forests. Cameron Highlands is a mountainous region with a climate favorable to the cultivation of tea, subtropical vegetables, and flowers. Rapid economic growth and land use practices, however, have altered the environmental landscape of the area. Thus, this study was carried out to examine the rate of loss and pattern of fragmentation of the tropical mountain forests in Cameron Highlands. Temporal remotely sensed data (SPOT 5 images) of the years 2000, 2005, and 2010 were processed to develop a land use map of each year, which then analyzed their landscape fragmentation using GIS. Results showed that forest fragmentation occurred particularly in the period between 2005 and 2010. In 10 years the Cameron Highlands had lost about 2 % of its forested areas, mainly from agricultural activities. This study concludes that Cameron Highlands needs conservation efforts that should be focused on the management of the natural system and restoration project, and on management of the external influences, particularly on sustainable forest exploitation in the highland.

Keywords Remote sensing • Highland landscape • Land use/land cover change • Fragmentation

M. H. Ismail (*) • C. K.A. Che Ku Othman • I. A. Abd Malek

Faculty of Forestry, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia e-mail: mhasmadi@upm. edu. my; cheku_85@yahoo. com; ismail@upm. edu. my

S. A. Abdullah

Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia e-mail: saiful@ukm. edu. my

N. Nakagoshi and J. A. Mabuhay (eds.), Designing Low Carbon Societies in Landscapes, Ecological Research Monographs, DOI 10.1007/978-4-431-54819-5_13, © Springer Japan 2014

13.1 Introduction

Monitoring and management of natural resources requires timely, synoptic, and repetitive coverage over a large area. Coverage from various spatial scales helps in assessing temporal and spatial changes. Remote sensing provides up-to-date, reli­able, spatial data at regular time intervals that are useful for land cover analysis. This method has prompted research using remote sensing where detection of a wide variety of changes is based upon spectral values from remotely sensed data. The analysis of landscape pattern, which utilizes spatial information, presents a great opportunity for the generation of ecological information, processes, and knowl­edge. Global environmental change is a result of land cover change (Skole et al. 1997). The ability to monitor land cover change at a variety of scales provides essential information required to assist in sustainable land management. In recent years, land management has moved toward a landscape approach that reflects a mix of social, environmental, and economic values. In landscape ecology, landscape scale is divided into ecological processes and human use through developed infrastructure, ownership, and management of resources (Turner et al. 2001).

Our landscape is continuously changing in response to both natural and human disturbances. Landscape changes often occur gradually over time as a series of small, localized events. The structure and function of a landscape can be perceived differently at different scales, and it is important for the observer to decide on appropriate scales for a study (Turner 1989). The relationship between human behavior and forest changes poses a major research challenge for development projects, policy makers, and environmental organizations that aim to improve forest management.

Landscape mapping is often the first step in many remote sensing projects (Watson and Wilcock 2001; Zha et al. 2003). Many landscape metrics used in remote sensing change detection are based on ecology, and these metrics have been developed for quantifying landscape structure (Turner et al. 2003; Cohen and Goward 2004; Kerr et al. 2001). Landscape metrics is a number or indices that describe the landscape configuration and composition to formulate and analyze either individual patches or the whole landscape. Landscape metrics are very important to detect the pattern of change that is not readily visible to the human eye or easily detectable by a human analyst. The metrics can be used to assess ecosystem health or as variables for models that support environmental assessment and planning efforts (Herzog et al. 2001; Patil et al. 2001).These metrics fall into two general categories: those that quantify the composition of the map without reference to spatial attributes, and those that quantify the spatial configuration of the map, requiring spatial information for their calculation (McGarigal and Marks 1995; Gustafson 1998). Using satellite imagery such as SPOT or Landsat, aerial photography, and geographic information systems, landscape ecologists are able to examine how the landscape has changed over time and how it is likely to change in the future. Once landscape changes are identified or predicted, the causes and the ecological and societal consequences of such changes can be examined.

Roy and Joshi (2002) clearly state that changing the landscape pattern through fragmentation can disrupt ecological processes that depend on movement within the landscape. Tropical mountain forests are among the most fragile and highly threat­ened of all tropical forest ecosystems (Bruijnzeel 2001). Forest landscape models have benefited greatly from technological advances, including increased computing capacity, the development of the Geographic Information System (GIS), remote sensing, and software engineering. The forest ecological processes and their inter­actions in forest landscape models can be represented by well-designed computer software (He et al. 2000).

Previous studies reported that the Cameron Highlands face various environmen­tal problems caused by human activities such as agriculture, urbanization, infra­structure development, and deforestation, which contribute to degradation of the highland landscape and severe upland soil erosion (Aminuddin et al. 2005; Che Ku Akmar and Mohd Hasmadi 2010). To date there are limited studies on landscape pattern or changes in mountain areas in Malaysia. In this chapter, the rate of forest loss and pattern of landscape fragmentation in the tropical mountain forest of Cameron Highlands were examined by comparing temporal SPOT 5 images in years 2000, 2005, and 2010. The landscape structure changes were assessed based on their spatial configuration over time using selected landscape metrics or indices. The information obtained may be directly or indirectly useful to the management and development strategies for environmental sustainability of the highlands.