Modeling Spatiotemporal Patterns of Land Use/Land Cover Change in Central Malawi Using a Neural Network Model
We examine Land Use Land Cover Change (LULCC) in the Dedza and Ntcheu districts of Central Malawi and model anthropogenic and environmental drivers. We present an integrative approach to understanding heterogenous landscape interactions and short- to long-term shocks and how they inform future land management and policy in Malawi. Landsat 30-m satellite imagery for 2001, 2009, and 2019 was used to identify and quantify LULCC outcomes based on eight input classes: agriculture, built-up areas, barren, water, wetlands, forest-mixed vegetation, shrub-woodland, and other. A Multilayer Perceptron (MLP) neural network was developed to examine land-cover transitions based on the drivers; elevation, slope, soil texture, population density and distance from roads and rivers. Agriculture is projected to dominate the landscape by 2050. Dedza has a higher probability of future land conversion to agriculture (0.45 to 0.70) than Ntcheu (0.30 to 0.45). These findings suggest that future land management initiatives should focus on spatiotemporal patterns in land cover and develop multidimensional policies that promote land conservation in the local context.