Lily Zeng

Advisor: Chadwick D. Oliver


Spanning two biodiversity hotspots, Xishuangbanna in Yunnan province contains the world’s northernmost tropical rainforest and the richest biodiversity in China. It also contains high cultural diversity, with many indigenous groups such as the Dai people.

In Xishuangbanna, lowland rainforests are disappearing at alarming rates due to the rapid proliferation of rubber plantations. The Dai people protect remaining fragments of old-growth forest as “holy hills.” Holy hills are important reservoirs of biodiversity, preserving unique species of plants, insects, and animals. Sacred sites are instrumental in preserving the ecological integrity of entire landscapes because of their intimate cultural ties with local peoples; this relationship allows sacred areas to persist in many parts of the world despite mounting economic pressure on forest resources. Because holy hills hold great promise as a way to include indigenous peoples in major land use decisions and to maintain traditions and beliefs, I will examine land use in and surrounding holy hills to explore conservation potential. I will use satellite imagery to classify land cover types and describe changes in land use.

Comparing holy hills to the surrounding region, I ask:

  1. Do land use and land cover differ?
  2. Do trends in land use differ?
  3. Do vegetation types differ?
  4. Is species richness higher on holy hills?

I will use the methodology and land cover classifications developed by Dr. Cao (Hu et al. 2008). Looking at land use and land cover changes via remote sensing in Menglun, Xishuangbanna, Hu et al. (2008) used a spatial database developed from (1) the land use and land cover (LULC) maps derived from independent supervised classifications of a February 1988 Landsat TM (Thematic Mapper) image, a March 2003 Landsat ETM (Enhanced Thematic Mapper) image, and two April 2006 Quickbird images; and (2) records from field surveys.

The classification system was based on the technical guide to land use status survey devised by the Agricultural Division Committee of China (China Agricultural Division Committee 1984). The ten LULC categories were:

  1. paddy fields;
  2. orchards, including plantations of fruit trees, tea, vanilla, other cash crops;
  3. rubber plantations;
  4. special land uses, including arboretum, nursery, experimental fields;
  5. swidden fields (“slash and burn field” or shifting cultivation land);
  6. shrublands with woody bushes greater than 20% and tree cover less than 20%;
  7. logging areas, referring to land patches newly cleared for other purposes;
  8. rivers;
  9. forested areas, including nature reserves, primary and secondary forests;
  10. settlement and road, including urban and rural settlements with buildings, national highways, and expressways.
I will use Landsat and ALOS-PALSAR images to create a LULC map for 2011 and then use this information in conjunction with LULC maps already available for 1988, 2003, and 2006 for a time series analysis.