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Forests throughout the world are under tremendous anthropogenic pressure as they are continually threatened by forest fire, over harvesting, disease and increases in human population.

A project launched by Nepal’s Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) was the focus of an article in the second issue of last year’s technology & more magazine entitled “Counting Crowns – Automatically” (link requires Flash player).

The High Mountain Agribusiness and Livelihood Improvement (HIMALI) project examined the country’s isolated Jumla region. A combination of satellite imagery and advanced land-classification technology allowed project managers to generate two land-cover maps showing changes in Jumla’s fragile vegetation over time.

Data collection and solution development for the HIMALI project was conducted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu. To better understand the region’s current vegetation and land-cover, in particular forest cover, a detailed multi-temporal forest inventory at the tree-crown level was required. According to Kabir Uddin, a GIS and Remote Sensing Analyst with ICIMOD, “the most cost-effective and accurate way to acquire this information was with satellite imagery and object-based image analysis (OBIA) software”. For this purpose, Trimble’s eCognition software was chosen.

After a challenging data acquisition phase, the team was able to successfully analyze the region and the results debunked some long-time local beliefs. The maps demonstrated that the area was suffering due to a 12% tree canopy loss between 2006 and 2011. The ICIMOD team carried out an extensive accuracy assessment and determined the eCognition-based analysis to have an overall accuracy of 93%.

The sobering results are now helping authorities to devise forest-specific management plans and HIMALI managers to better understand the roots of the region’s deforestation and watershed erosion for a more efficient distribution of resources.

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