The use of remote sensing to quantify wetland loss in the Choke Mountain range, Upper Blue Nile basin, Ethiopia
Abstract. Wetlands provide multiple ecosystem services such as storing and regulating water flows and water quality, providing unique habitats to flora and fauna, and regulating micro-climatic conditions. Conversion of wetlands for agricultural use is a widespread practice in Ethiopia, particularly in the southwestern part where wetlands cover large areas. Although there are many studies on land cover and land use changes in this region, comprehensive studies on wetlands are still missing. Hence, extent and rate of wetland loss at regional scales is unknown. The objective of this paper is to quantify wetland dynamics and estimate wetland loss in the Choke Mountain range (area covering 17 443 km2) in the Upper Blue Nile basin, a key headwater region of the river Nile. Therefore, satellite remote sensing imagery of the period 1986–2005 were considered. To create images of surface reflectance that are radiometrically consistent, a combination of cross-calibration and atmospheric correction (Vogelman-DOS3) methods was used. A hybrid supervised/unsupervised classification approach was used to classify the images. Overall accuracies of 94.1% and 93.5% and Kappa Coefficients of 0.908 and 0.913 for the 1986 and 2005 imageries, respectively were obtained. The results showed that 607 km2 of seasonal wetland with low moisture and 22.4 km2 of open water are lost in the study area during the period 1986 to 2005. The current situation in the wetlands of Choke Mountain is characterized by further degradation which calls for wetland conservation and rehabilitation efforts through incorporating wetlands into watershed management plans.