Quantifying longitudinal land use change from land degradation to rehabilitation in the headwaters of Tekeze-Atbara Basin, Ethiopia

T. G. Gebremicael, Y. A. Mohamed, P. van der Zaag, E. Y. Hagos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The spatiotemporal variability of the Land Use/Cover (LULC) is a strong influence on the land management and hydrological processes of a river basin. In particular in semi-arid regions like the Tekeze-Atbara (T-A) basin, accurate information about LULC change is a prerequisite for improved land and water management. The human-induced landscape transformations in the T-A basin, one of the main tributaries of the Nile River, were investigated for the last four decades (1972–2014). Separate LULC maps for the years 1972, 1989, 2001, and 2014 were developed based on satellite images, Geographic Information System (GIS) and ground information. Change detection analysis based on the transitional probability matrix was applied to identify systematic transitions among the LULC categories. The results show that > 72% of the landscape has changed its category during the past 43 years. LULC in the basin experienced significant shifts from one category to other categories by 61%, 47%, and 45%, in 1972–1989, 1989–2001, and 2001–2014, respectively. Although both net and swap (simultaneous gain and loss of a given LULC during a certain period) change occurred, the latter is more dominant. Natural vegetation cover, including forests, reduced drastically with the rapid expansion of crops, grazing areas and bare lands during the first two decades. However, vegetation started to recover since the 1990s, when some of the agricultural and bare lands have turned into vegetated areas. Forest land showed a continuous decreasing pattern, however, it has increased by 28% in the last period (2001–2014). In contrast, plantation trees have increased by 254% in the last three decades. The increase of vegetation cover is a result of intensive watershed management programs during the last two decades. The driving forces of changes were also discussed and rapid population growth and changing government policies were found to be the most important.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1581-1589
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Geba catchment
  • Land degradation
  • Nile river basin
  • Tekeze River basin
  • Watershed management


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