Analyzing trends of land use and the change over time is an effective way for assessing the impact on ecosystem function. A study was conducted to detect forest cover change of Yabello forest between 1986 and 2016. The land use maps of 1986, 1996, 2006 and 2016 were derived from satellite images. The spatial pattern analysis indicated that the Yabello land use/land cover (LULC) is at a dynamic state and forests had undergone substantial changes during the last 30 years. Between 1986 and 2016, a considerable decrease in forest land cover was observed (-1919.52 ha). Thus, local communities’ perceptions indicated that recurrent drought, wood extraction and increased human population size were largely responsible for the observed LULC changes in the study area. Generally, the temporal decrease in forest cover and low woody vegetation diversity showed that the Yabello forest was under degradation, which was attributed to anthropogenic factors. Thus, collaborative forest management arrangements with the local communities and improved law enforcement strategies are essential to ease the present human influence on the natural forest and enhance sustainable management.
Key words: Forest covers change, satellite image, remote sensing, geographical information system (GIS).