Willie Doaemo 1,2, Lawrence Wuest 3, Shaurya Bajaj 4, Wan Shafrina Wan Mohd Jaafar 5 and Midhun Mohan 4,6
1Department of Civil Engineering, Papua New Guinea University of Technology, Lae 00411, Papua New Guinea
2Morobe Development Foundation, Doyle Street, Trish Avenue-Eriku, Lae 00411, Papua New Guinea
3United Nations Volunteer, Stanley, NB E6B 2K5, Canada
4United Nations Volunteer, Morobe Development Foundation, Lae 00411, Papua New Guinea
5Earth Observation Centre, Institute of Climate Change, National University of Malaysia (UKM), Bangi 43600, Selangor, Malaysia
6Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Papua New Guinea is a country in Oceania that hosts unique rain forests and forest ecosystems which are crucial for sequestering atmospheric carbon, conserving biodiversity, supporting the livelihood of indigenous people, and underpinning the timber market of the country. As a result of urban sprawl, agricultural expansion, and illegal logging, there has been a tremendous increase in land-use land cover (LULC) change happening in the country in the past few decades and this has triggered massive deforestation and forest degradation. However, only a few studies have ventured into quantifying the long-term trends and their associated spatial patterns—and have often presented contrasting responses. Herein, we intended to assess the extent of deforestation and the rate of urbanization that happened in the past 33 years (1987–2020) in the Bumbu river basin in Papua New Guinea using satellite imagery—for the years 1987, 2002, 2010, and 2020—and Geographic Information System (GIS) tools. On performing image classification, land use maps were developed and later compared with Google Earth’s high-resolution satellite images for accuracy assessment purposes. For probing into the spatial aspects of the land-use change issues, the study area was divided into four urban zones and four forest zones according to the four main cardinal directions centered in the urban and forest area centers of the 1987 image; subsequently, the rate of urban area expansion in each urban zone was separately calculated. From our preliminary analysis and literature survey, we observed several hurdles regarding the classification of regenerative forests and mixed pixels and gaps in LULC studies that have happened in Papua New Guinea to date. Through this communication paper, we aim to disseminate our preliminary results, which highlight a rapid increase in urban extent from 14.39 km2 in 1987 to 23.06 km2 in 2020 accompanied by a considerable decrease in forest extent from 76.29 km2 in 1987 to 59.43 km2 in 2020; this observation favors the presumption that urban and agricultural land expansion is happening at the cost of forest cover. Moreover, strategies for addressing technical issues and for integrating land-use change with various socioeconomic and environmental variables are presented soliciting feedback.