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Research Article

Long-term changes in land use, land cover and vegetation in the Karoo drylands of South Africa: implications for degradation monitoring

Published in: African Journal of Range & Forage Science
Volume 35, issue 3-4, 2018 , pages: 209–221
DOI: 10.2989/10220119.2018.1516237
Author(s): M Timm HoffmanDepartment of Biological Sciences, South Africa, Andrew SkownoSouth African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa, Wesley BellDepartment of Biological Sciences, South Africa, Samukele MasheleDepartment of Biological Sciences, South Africa


We used several large data sets at a range of temporal and spatial scales to document the land-use/land-cover change (LULCC) dynamics of the semi-arid Succulent Karoo and Nama-Karoo biomes of South Africa. More than 95% of the Karoo is comprised of land classified as Natural, which has been relatively stable since 1990. Over the last 100 years cultivation, as well as the number of domestic livestock, has declined significantly in both biomes. Protected areas have increased since 1980 to comprise nearly 8% of the Succulent Karoo biome, although they only cover 1.6% of the Nama-Karoo biome. There has been a significant recent increase in renewable energy installation applications, which cover 4% of the Karoo drylands. The trend in vegetation productivity (NDVI; 1982–2015) is unchanged over 90% of both biomes, while nearly 10% of the Karoo has shown a significant increase in NDVI trend. An analysis of repeat photographs shows that vegetation cover has either remained unchanged or has increased at most locations. Although the Karoo drylands appear less degraded than they were in the mid-twentieth century, on-going monitoring at different temporal and spatial scales is essential to evaluate the future impact of LULCC on these semi-arid environments.

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