Climate Variability, Land Cover Changes and Livelihoods of Communities on the Fringes of Bobiri Forest Reserve, Ghana

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Climate variability coupled with land use and land cover changes have resulted in significant changes in forest reserves in Ghana with major implications for rural livelihoods. Understanding the link between climate variability, land use and land cover changes and rural livelihoods is key for decision-making, especially regarding sustainable management of forest resources, monitoring of ecosystems and related livelihoods. The study determined the extent to which climate variability drives land cover changes in the Bobiri forest reserve, Ghana. Landsat images from 1986, 2003, 2010 and 2014 were used to evaluate land cover changes of the Bobiri forest reserve in Ghana. Participatory research approaches including household questionnaire surveys, focus group discussions and key informant interviews were conducted in four fringe communities of the Bobiri forest reserve. Findings showed that local people perceived changes in rainfall and temperature patterns over the past years. Historical rainfall and temperature data for the study area showed increased variability in rainfall and an increasing temperature trend, which are consistent with the perception of the study respondents. Analysis of land cover satellite images showed that there has been significant transformation of closed forest to open forest and non-forest land cover types over the 28-year period (1986–2014), with an overall kappa statistic of 0.77. Between 2003 and 2014, closed forest decreased by 15.6% but settlement/bare ground and crop land increased marginally by 1.5% and 0.9%, respectively. Focus group discussions and key informant interviews revealed that increased land cover changes in the Bobiri forest reserve could partly be attributed to erratic rainfall patterns. Other factors such as logging and population growth were reported to be factors driving land cover changes. The study concluded that the Bobiri forest reserve has witnessed significant land cover changes and recommended that alternative livelihood sources should be provided to reduce the direct dependency of fringe communities on the forest for livelihood and firewood.
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