Use of gis and remote sensing data to understand the impacts of land use/land cover changes (Lulcc) on snow leopard (panthera uncia) habitat in Pakistan



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Sustainability (Switzerland)






Anthropogenic disturbance, Carnivore, Habitat quality, Infrastructure development, Northern Pakistan, Snow leopard range


Habitat degradation and species range contraction due to land use/land cover changes (LULCC) is a major threat to global biodiversity. The ever-growing human population has trespassed deep into the natural habitat of many species via the expansion of agricultural lands and infras-tructural development. Carnivore species are particularly at risk, as they demand conserved and well-connected habitat with minimum to no anthropogenic disturbance. In Pakistan, the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is found in three mountain ranges—the Himalayas, Hindukush, and Karakoram. Despite this being one of the harshest environments on the planet, a large population of humans reside here and exploit surrounding natural resources to meet their needs. Keeping in view this exponentially growing population and its potential impacts on at-risk species like the snow leopard, we used geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing with the aim of identifying and quantifying LULCC across snow leopard range in Pakistan for the years 2000, 2010, and 2020. A massive expansion of 1804.13 km2 (163%) was observed in the built-up area during the study period. Similarly, an increase of 3177.74 km2 (153%) was observed in agricultural land. Barren mountain land increased by 12,368.39 km2 (28%) while forest land decreased by 2478.43 km2 (28%) and area with snow cover decreased by 14,799.83 km2 (52%). Drivers of these large-scale changes are likely the expanding human population and climate change. The overall quality and quantity of snow leopard habitat in Pakistan has drastically changed in the last 20 years and could be compromised. Swift and direct conservation actions to monitor LULCC are recommended to reduce any associated negative impacts on species preservation efforts. In the future, a series of extensive field surveys and studies should be carried out to monitor key drivers of LULCC across the observed area.

Open Access