Assessing Changes in Land Use/Land Cover and Ecological Risk to Conserve Protected Areas in Urban–Rural Contexts
Land use/land cover (LULC) changes in response to natural factors and human activities constitute a pressing issue for the conservation of Protected Areas in urban–rural landscapes. The present study investigated LULC changes in the Jajrud Protected Area (JPA) and the Kavdeh Wildlife Refuge (KWR) in the Tehran province, Iran, between 1989 and 2019. To inform ecological conservation measures for the JPA and KWR, LULC changes were identified and monitored using Landsat imagery from between 1989 and 2019. In addition, the landscape ecological risk (ER) was evaluated by conducting a landscape pattern index analysis. Then, the importance of different indicators affected by ER in these two PAs was assessed using the Delphi method, and expert opinions were solicited through a questionnaire. As for LULC changes in the JPA, high-density pasture declined the most over 1989–2019, from 38.6% (29,241 ha) to 37.7% (28,540 ha). In contrast, built-up areas increased the most, from 10.4% (7895 ha) in 1989 to 11.9% (9048 ha) in 2019. Water bodies also increased, from 0.88% (676 ha) in 1989 to 0.94% (715 ha) in 2019. In the KWR, cropland and gardens increased the most, from 2.14% (1647 ha) in 1989 to 3.4% (2606 ha) in 2019. Built-up areas also increased, from 0.05% (45 ha) in 1989 to 0.09% (75 ha) in 2019. Water bodies increased from 0.69% (538 ha) in 1989 to 0.71% (552 ha) in 2019. Finally, high-density pasture decreased the most, from 29.4% (22,603 ha) in 1989 to 28.5% (21,955 ha) in 2019. At the same time, the high and very high ER classes increased, more so in the JPA compared to the KWR. Finally, considering both LULC and ER changes, the Delphi method demonstrated that the greatest impacts occurred in the JPA. Various illegal economic and physical activities have created LULC changes and caused extensive destruction of ecosystems, posing a high ER in the study areas. The intensity of ER differs between the two PAs because of the varying distance from the metropolis, varying degrees of human activities, LULC changes, along with differences in legal restrictions of use. Aligned with the management plans of these areas, our research shows that it is necessary to develop land only within the designated zones to minimize the amount of ER. Various models of LULC changes have been presented, and a comparison of these models relating to the methodology and model effectiveness can help increase their accuracy and power of interpretation.
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