Land cover change is one of the most important drivers of forest ecosystem change. The Hindu Kush Himalayan region (HKH) has experienced severe forest degradation but data and documentation are limited. We undertook this study in the Nepalese part of the Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL), an important transboundary region known for its biodiversity and the scared values. Forest is an important ecosystem within the landscape and provides various goods and services including habitat for many keystone species. However, precise information on forest change and overall land cover change in the area is limited. We analyzed land cover change and forest fragmentation between 1990 and 2009, and the predicted change for 2030. There was a 9% decrease in forest cover and 12% increase in cropland between 1990 and 2009. A further 4% decline in forest cover and 5% increase in cropland was predicted by 2030, together with a slight increase in grassland and barren area. Fragmentation analysis showed a 10% decrease in large core forest between 1990 and 2009, accompanied by an increase in patch forest. A further 10.6% decline in core forest was predicted by 2030, accompanied by an increase in patch, perforated, small-sized core, and mediumsized core areas. The study suggests that expansions of cropland coupled with high dependency on forests are the major drivers of the observed forest change. Recommendations are made based on the results of the study that will help to maintain and restore forest, and support biodiversity conservation and livelihoods.
- Forest cover