In the present study, the Hokersar wetland, in Kashmir Himalayas, that is abode to millions of migratory birds, has been chosen to assess the changes in the land use/land cover and areal extent of the wetland during the last four decades. Topographic maps of 1969 and the remote sensing data for 1992, 2001, 2005 and 2008 was used for determining the spatio-temporal dynamics of the wetland. Significant changes in the Hokersar wetland and in the surrounding uplands were observed from the analysis of the data during the last four decades. The wetland area has reduced from 1875.04 Ha in 1969 to 1300 Ha in 2008 with drastic reduction in the open waters in the wetland. Results from this study show that the encroachment by farmers, sediment load carried by Doodhganga River and extension of willow plantations in the wetland are the main causes responsible for the wetland depletion. The marshy lands, the habitat of the migratory birds, have reduced from 754 Ha in 1969 to 610 Ha in 2008. In addition, the increasing development of settlements around the wetland over the past few decades has adversely affected its varied aquatic flora and fauna. Apart from these causes, change in climatic conditions in the study area is also responsible for decreasing the water level and water spread in the wetland. These changes in the composition and structure of the wetland have affected its functionality and are manifest in the deterioration of water quality and changes in the aquatic vegetation composition.
Key words: Geoinformatics, land use/land cover, urbanization, remote sensing, biodiversity, water quality.
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