Journal of Resources and Ecology ›› 2017, Vol. 8 ›› Issue (1): 10-19.DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2017.01.003

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Land Cover Status in the Koshi River Basin, Central Himalayas

WU Xue1,2, GAO Jungang1, ZHANG Yili1,2,*, LIU Linshan1, ZHAO Zhilong1,2, Basanta PAUDEL1,2   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China;
    2. University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2016-03-14 Online:2017-01-20 Published:2017-01-20
  • Contact: ZHANG Yili. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China (41371120); Australian Government-funded Koshi Basin Programme at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD); Key Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ZDRW-ZS-2016-6)

Abstract: The Koshi River Basin is in the middle of the Himalayas, a tributary of the Ganges River and a very important cross-border watershed. Across the basin there are large changes in altitude, habitat complexity, ecosystem integrity, land cover diversity and regional difference and this area is sensitive to global climate change. Based on Landsat TM images, vegetation mapping, field investigations and 3S technology, we compiled high-precision land cover data for the Koshi River Basin and analyzed current land cover characteristics. We found that from source to downstream, land cover in the Koshi River Basin in 2010 was composed of water body (glacier), bare land, sparse vegetation, grassland, wetland, shrubland, forest, cropland, water body (river or lake) and built-up areas. Among them, grassland, forest, bare land and cropland are the main types, accounting for 25.83%, 21.19%, 19.31% and 15.09% of the basin’s area respectively. The composition and structure of the Koshi River Basin land cover types are different between southern and northern slopes. The north slope is dominated by grassland, bare land and glacier; forest, bare land and glacier are mainly found on northern slopes. Northern slopes contain nearly seven times more grassland than southern slopes; while 97.13% of forest is located on southern slopes. Grassland area on northern slope is 6.67 times than on southern slope. The vertical distribution of major land cover types has obvious zonal characteristics. Land cover types from low to high altitudes are cropland, forest, Shrubland and mixed cropland, grassland, sparse vegetation, bare land and water bodies. These results provide a scientific basis for the study of land use and cover change in a critical region and will inform ecosystem protection, sustainability and management in this and other alpine transboundary basins.

Key words: Koshi River Basin, land cover pattern, object-oriented method, vertical distribution, Himalayas