Producing context specific land cover and land use maps of human-modified tropical forest landscapes for infectious disease applications

Samrat, Abhishek, Purse, Bethan V, Vanak, Abi, Chaudhary, Anusha, Uday, Gowri, Rahman, Mujeeb, Hassall, Richard, George, Charles and Gerard, France (2024) Producing context specific land cover and land use maps of human-modified tropical forest landscapes for infectious disease applications. Science of the Total Environment, 912 . ISSN 0048-9697

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Satellite-based land cover mapping plays an important role in understanding changes in ecosystems and biodiversity. There are global land cover products available, however for region specific studies of drivers of infectious disease patterns, these can lack the spatial and thematic detail or accuracy required to capture key ecological processes. To overcome this, we produced our own Landsat derived 30 m maps for three districts in India's Western Ghats (Wayanad, Shivamogga and Sindhudurg). The maps locate natural vegetation types, plantation types, agricultural areas, water bodies and settlements in the landscape, all relevant to functional resource use of species involved in infectious disease dynamics. The maps represent the mode of 50 classification iterations and include a spatial measure of class stability derived from these iterations. Overall accuracies for Wayanad, Shivamogga and Sindhudurg are 94.7 % (SE 1.2 %), 88.9 % (SE 1.2 %) and 88.8 % (SE 2 %) respectively. Class classification stability was high across all three districts and the individual classes that matter for defining key interfaces between human habitation, forests, crop, and plantation cultivation, were generally well separated. A comparison with the 300 m global ESA CCI land cover map highlights lower ESA CCI class accuracies and the importance of increased spatial resolution when dealing with complex landscape mosaics. A comparison with the 30 m Global Forest Change product reveals an accurate mapping of forest loss and different dynamics between districts (i.e., Forests lost to Built-up versus Forests lost to Plantations), demonstrating an interesting complementarity between our maps and the % tree cover Global Forest Change product. When studying infectious disease responses to land use change in tropical forest ecosystems, we recommend using bespoke land cover/use classifications reflecting functional resource use by relevant vectors, reservoirs, and people. Alternatively, global products should be carefully validated with ground reference points representing locally relevant habitats. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.]

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