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Reading: Changes in habitat coverage from 2005 to 2019 in the Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

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Changes in habitat coverage from 2005 to 2019 in the Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

Authors:

W. P. T. A. Perera,

University of Colombo, Colombo, LK
About W. P. T. A.
Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences
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P. H. K. L. A. Prematilaka,

University of Colombo, Colombo, LK
About P. H. K. L. A.
Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences
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M. H. A. Haseena,

University of Colombo, Colombo, LK
About M. H. A.
Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences
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A. H. L. C. M. Athapaththu,

University of Colombo, Colombo, LK
About A. H. L. C. M.
Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences
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M. R. Wijesinghe

University of Colombo, Colombo, LK
About M. R.
Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences
 
 
EcoServ Research Lab, Faculty of Science, University of Colombo, Colombo
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Abstract

In protected areas (PAs) designated for the conservation of biodiversity, temporal landscape changes do occur, driven by natural and anthropogenic factors. Such changes may impact on the conservation value of the PA. In a wildlife PA, changes in habitat extents could adversely affect some of the faunal species. Our objective was to assess temporal changes in the cover of three major habitat types in the Udawalawe National Park (UWNP) that have occurred over a short term. Based on the outcome, we aimed to determine the potential impacts such changes would have on the wildlife. Considering that UWNP was established primarily for conserving the nationally threatened and flagship species Elephas maximus, we carried out field studies and decided on three relevant habitat types - forest, scrub, and grassland. We used multi-temporal satellite images with ground truthing for assessing habitat extents in the years 2005, 2010, 2015, and 2019. Habitat cover maps were prepared using supervised classification and changes in the extents of the selected habitats were assessed. Between 2005 and 2019, the areas under forest and scrub had increased. The grassland has considerably decreased, mainly owing to invasion by scrub. Grassland depletion adversely impacts the elephant whose preferred food is grass and the high population of elephants in UWNP aggravates the situation. Depletion of food resources within the park would also lead to an increase in the human-elephant conflicts in border villages. Thus, in this study we highlight the importance of monitoring temporal changes in habitat cover in order to manage the PA and the inhabiting wild elephants.
How to Cite: Perera, W. P. T. A., Prematilaka, P. H. K. L. A., Haseena, M. H. A., Athapaththu, A. H. L. C. M., & Wijesinghe, M. R. (2021). Changes in habitat coverage from 2005 to 2019 in the Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka. Ceylon Journal of Science, 50(4), 467–474. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/cjs.v50i4.7945
Published on 15 Dec 2021.
Peer Reviewed

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