Land Cover Change Investigation in the Southern Syrian Coastal Basins During the Past 30-Years Using Landsat Remote Sensing Data

Muhannad Hammad 1 , László Mucsi 1 , and Boudewijn van Leeuwen 1
  • 1 Department of Physical Geography and Geoinformatics, University of Szeged, H-6722, Szeged, Hungary


Land cover change and deforestation are important global ecosystem hazards. As for Syria, the current conflict and the subsequent absence of the forest preservation are main reasons for land cover change. This study aims to investigate the temporal and spatial aspects and trends of the land cover alterations in the southern Syrian coastal basins. In this study, land cover maps were made from surface reflectance images of Landsat-5(TM), Landsat-7(ETM+) and Landsat-8(OLI) during May (period of maximum vegetation cover) in 1987, 2002 and 2017. The images were classified into four different thematic classes using the maximum likelihood supervised classification method. The classification results were validated using 160 validation points in 2017, where overall accuracy was 83.75%. Spatial analysis was applied to investigate the land cover change during the period of 30 years for each basin and the whole study area. The results show 262.40 km2 reduction of forest and natural vegetation area during (1987-2017) period, and 72.5% of this reduction occurred during (2002-2017) period due to over-cutting of forest trees as a source of heating by local people, especially during the conflict period. This reduction was particularly high in the Alabrash and Hseen basins with 76.13 and 79.49 km2 respectively, and was accompanied by major increase of agriculture lands area which is attributed to dam construction in these basins which allowed people to cultivate rural lands for subsistence or to enhance their economic situation. The results of this study must draw the relevant authorities’ attention to preserve the remaining forest area.

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