Land Use/ Land Cover Change Patterns and Trends in Two Dryland Regions

Omar Sulaiman Belhaj, University of Texas at El Paso


Development and climate change affect the environment in numerous ways and to varying degrees. This effect appears prominent and more influential in arid regions. Therefore, land use/ land cover in these regions experience profound changes such as plant cover decrease and extinction of some plant species. Also, land use/ land cover in these regions has critical impacts on the environment and its components, such as shrublands shrinking and losing the habitat of animal species. The degree of changes and effects reaches severe levels that become urgent to figure out the impacts and find solutions to stop or mitigate the negative consequences. This research was implemented in two different areas on two continents to measure land use/ land cover changes, analyze them, and predict their future circumstances. This research will identify the actual areas of the different land use/ land cover categories in the study areas and clarify the changes in these categories over time that are needed for land management and planning. These two regions are located at the same latitude in the northern hemisphere and face similar climate conditions and challenges. Also, these two regions suffer from water scarcity and quality issues that cause water use limitations and shortages.The district of Khoms, Libya, is a semiarid-to-arid region located in North Africa. The land use/ land cover study revealed a 16% per year long-term historical urban growth rate, leading to an urbanization increase of 658% from just 800 ha in 1976 to 6,067 ha in 2015 over the 40-year analysis period. The growth of urban areas replaced natural and agricultural lands. These results are essential to know the actual land use/ land cover areas and their changes in the Khoms district. As well, these results will help to realize the real stress on sustainability in the district and the surrounding areas and push towards better management of the district and the surrounding areas that face the same conditions.The Middle Rio Grande Region is a semiarid to an arid region in North America on the southwest border between the US and Mexico. The region encompasses the three vibrant and fast-growing metropolitan cities of El Paso, Texas, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Different land use/ land cover patterns and trends prevailed in this area during the 24-year study period from 1994-to 2015. This research focused on understanding recent trends, present circumstances, and likely future development scenarios of the Middle Rio Grande Region. Specifically, I analyzed changes in surface water bodies and land use/ land cover and predicted future changes in different land use/ land cover categories based on past change trends. The results showed that the area of surface waterbodies decreased by more than 56% in the last 26-year period, 1994-2020. The extent of agricultural lands decreased by ~12%. Urbanization growth dominated documented land use/ land cover trends by ~ 45 %, especially around El Paso, Texas, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.Land use/ land cover changes in the region appear to continue in the future years of 2020-2040 with the same patterns and trends. Results indicated that the extent of agricultural land will decrease by ~14% in 2020-2040, mainly around the major metropolitan areas of El Paso, Ciudad Juárez, and Las Cruces to provide land to open space and urban development, which will increase by ~20% and ~29% respectively. The surface water areas across the region, which face growing demands, will decrease ~15% if current change rates continue.Results from this research are an important resource for stakeholders, authorities, and decision-makers to understand the changes in land use/ land cover, work to control the impacts of these changes, and plan for best practices in the future. In addition, the research shows the ability of remote sensing and geographic information system technologies to identify, analyze land use/ land cover, and predict their future changes, patterns, and trends.

Subject Area

Environmental science|Agricultural engineering

Recommended Citation

Belhaj, Omar Sulaiman, "Land Use/ Land Cover Change Patterns and Trends in Two Dryland Regions" (2022). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI29324738.