Land use/land cover change and implications for ecosystems services in the Likangala River Catchment, Malawi
Palamuleni, Lobina G.
Ruhiiga, Tabukeli M.
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Likangala River catchment in Zomba District of Southern Malawi is important for water resources, agriculture and provides many ecosystem services. Provisioning ecosystem services accrued by the populations within the catchment include water, fish, medicinal plants and timber among others. In spite of its importance, the River catchment is under threat from anthropogenic activities and land use change. This paper studies land uses and land cover change in the catchment and how the changes have impacted on the ecosystem services. Landsat 5 and 8 images (1984, 1994, 2005 and 2013) were used to map land cover change and subsequent inventorying of provisioning ecosystem services. Participatory Geographic Information Systems and Focus group discussions were conducted to identify provisioning ecosystems services that communities benefit from the catchment and indicate these on the map. Post classification comparisons indicate that since 1984, there has been a decline in woodlands from 135.3 km2 in 1984 to 15.5 km2 in 2013 while urban areas increased from 9.8 km2 to 23.8 km2 in 2013. Communities indicated that provisioning ecosystems services such as forest products, wild animals and fruits and medicinal plants have been declining over the years. In addition, evidence of catchment degradation through waste disposal, illegal sand mining, deforestation and farming on marginal lands were observed. Population growth, urbanization and demand for agricultural lands have contributed to this land use and land cover change. The study suggests addressing catchment degradation through integrated method where an ecosystems approach is used. Thus, both the proximate and underlying driving factors of land-use and land cover change need to be addressed in order to sustainably reduce ecosystem degradation.