Analyzing the dominant forms and extent of land cover changes in the Mount Elgon region is important for tracking conservation efforts and sustainable land management. Mount Elgon’s rugged terrain limits the monitoring of these changes over large areas. This study used multitemporal satellite imagery to analyze and quantify the land cover changes in the upper Manafwa watershed of Mount Elgon, for 42 years covering an area of 320 km2. The study employed remote sensing techniques, geographic information systems, and software to map land cover changes over four decades (1978, 1988, 2001, 2010, and 2020). The maximum likelihood classifier and post-classification comparison technique were used in land cover classification and change detection analysis. The results showed a positive percentage change (gain) in planted forest (3966%), built-up (890%), agriculture (186%), and tropical high forest low-stocked (119%) and a negative percentage change (loss) in shrubs (−81%), bushland (−68%), tropical high forest well-stocked (−50%), grassland (−44%), and bare and sparsely vegetated surfaces (−14%) in the period of 1978–2020. The observed changes were concentrated mainly at the peripheries of the Mount Elgon National Park. The increase in population and rising demand for agricultural land were major driving factors. However, regreening as a restoration effort has led to an increase in land area for planted forests, attributed to an improvement in conservation-related activities jointly implemented by the concerned stakeholders and native communities. These findings revealed the spatial and temporal land cover changes in the upper Manafwa watershed. The results could enhance restoration and conservation efforts when coupled with studies on associated drivers of these changes and the use of very-high-resolution remote sensing on areas where encroachment is visible in the park.
- change detection
- land cover changes (LCCs)
- maximum likelihood classifier
- Mount Elgon
- nature conservation