Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-mrcq8 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-03-01T05:46:48.735Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

8 - Vegetation Dynamics, Land Use and Ecological Risk in Response to NDVI and Climate Change in Nepal

from Part II - Climate Risk to Human and Natural Systems

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2022

Qiuhong Tang
Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing
Guoyong Leng
Oxford University Centre for the Environment
Get access


Vegetation dynamics is a proxy indicator for environmental changes. The spatial and temporal evolution of the satellite derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) is a useful tool to identify environmental risk at large spatial scales. This study aimed to find the vegetation dynamics, land use and ecological risk in Nepal. The NDVI from different satellite products, land use land cover (LULC) change, human footprint pressure (HFP) and climate (i.e., temperature and precipitation) were analysed. The result showed that NDVI has significantly increased with greening in large areas. Spatially, the decreased NDVI was more noticeable in the Trans-Himalayan region. Meanwhile, the spatially averaged temperature has significantly increased at the rate of 0.03°C yr-1 and precipitation decreased by 3.94 mm yr-1 during 1982–2015. The rapid change in climate, land uses and vegetation can alter the ecosystem. The lower temperature in the mountains is a limiting factor for vegetation. Meanwhile, the high temperature in Terai and low precipitation in western and far western regions with lower VCI enhance dryness. Thus, these regions are ecologically fragile. This study of vegetation dynamics, land use, climates and HFP indicates the level of ecological risk in Nepal.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Bajracharya, S., Maharjan, S., Shrestha, F., Bajracharya, O., & Baidya, S. (2014). Glacier Status in Nepal and Decedal Changes from 1980 to 2010 based on Landsat data (p. 88). Kathmandu, Nepal: ICIMOD.Google Scholar
Baniya, B., Tang, Q., Huang, Z., Sun, S., & Techato, K.-A. (2018) Spatial and temporal variation of NDVI in response to climate change and the implication for carbon dynamics in Nepal. Forest 9(6): 329.Google Scholar
Baniya, B., Tan, Q., Xu, X., Haile, G. G., & Chhipi-Shrestha, G. (2019). Spatial and temporal variation of drought based on satellite derived vegetation condition index in Nepal from 1982–2015. Sensors 19(2): 430.Google Scholar
Bhandari, S., Speer, J. H., Thapa, U. K., et al. (2019). A 307-year tree-ring SPEI reconstruction indicates modern drought in Western Nepal Himalayas. Tree-Ring Research 75(2): 73.Google Scholar
CBS (2011). Population Monograph of Nepal. Kathmandu, Nepal: National Planning Commission Secretariat, Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Government of Nepal Population Dynamics.Google Scholar
Chapagain, P. S., Rai, M. K., & Paudel, B. (2018). Land use land cover change and its pathways in Sidin VDC, Panchthar district, Nepal. Geographical Journal of Nepal 11: 7794.Google Scholar
Chhetri, P. K., & Cairns, D. M. (2016) Dendroclimatic response of Abies spectabilis at treeline ecotone of Barun Valley, eastern Nepal Himalaya. Journal of Forestry Research 27(5): 11631170.Google Scholar
Dahal, P., Shrestha, M., Panthi, J., & Pradhanang, S. M. (2015). Drought risk assessment in central Nepal: Temporal and spatial analysis. Natural Hazards 80: 19131932.Google Scholar
DHM (2015). Study of Climate and Climatic Variation over Nepal. Kathmandu, Nepal: Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM).Google Scholar
DHM (2017). Observed Climate Trend Analysis in Nepal (1971–2014). Kathmandu, Nepal: Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM).Google Scholar
Didan, K. (2015). MOD13Q1 MODIS/Terra Vegetation Indices 16-Day L3 Global 250m SIN V006 (Data set). NASA EOSDIS LP DAAC. doi:10.5067/MODIS/MOD13Q1.006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dobremez, J. F. (1976). Le Nepal Ecolgie et Biogeography (Ecology and Biogeography of Nepal). Paris: Editions du Centre National de la Researche Centifique.Google Scholar
DoFRS (2015). State of Nepal’s Forests, Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) Nepal. Kathmandu, Nepal: Department of Forest Research and Survey (DoFRS).Google Scholar
DoFRS (2017). Forest and Watershed Profile of Local Level (744) Structures of Nepal. Kathmandu, Nepal: Department of Forest Research and Survey (DoFRS).Google Scholar
Dong, J. R., Kaufmann, R. K., Myneni, R. B., et al. (2003). Remote sensing estimates of boreal and temperate forest woody biomass: Carbon pools, sources, and sinks. Remote Sensing of Environment 84: 393410.Google Scholar
EPA (1998). Guidelines for Ecological Risk Assessment. EPA/630/R-95/002F. Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency.Google Scholar
Fensholt, R., & Proud, S. R. (2012). Evaluation of earth observation based global long term vegetation trends – Comparing GIMMS and MODIS global NDVI time series. Remote Sensing of Environment 119: 131147.Google Scholar
Foley, J. A., Defries, R., Asner, G. P., et al. (2005). Global consequences of land use. Science 309(5734): 570574.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gaire, N. P., Bhuju, D. R., Koirala, M., et al. (2017a). Tree-ring based spring precipitation reconstruction in western Nepal Himalaya since AD 1840. Dendrochronologia 42: 2130.Google Scholar
Gaire, N. P., Dhakal, Y. R., Shah, , S. K., et al. (2018). Drought (scPDSI) reconstruction of trans-Himalayan region of central Himalaya using Pinus wallichiana tree-rings. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 514: 251264.Google Scholar
Gaire, N. P., Koirala, M., Bhuju, D. R., & Carrer, M. (2017b). Site- and species-specific treeline responses to climatic variability in eastern Nepal Himalaya. Dendrochronologia 41: 4456.Google Scholar
He, Y. Q., Lee, E., & Warner, T. A. (2017). A time series of annual land use and land cover maps of China from 1982 to 2013 generated using AVHRR GIMMS NDVI3g data. Remote Sensing of Environment 199: 201217.Google Scholar
Holben, B. N. (1986). Characteristics of maximum value composite (MVC) images from temporal AVHRR data. International Journal of Remote Sensing 7(11): 14171434.Google Scholar
ICIMOD (2014a). Land Cover of Nepal 1990. Kathmandu, Nepal: International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Available from: (Last accessed 26 July 2021).Google Scholar
ICIMOD (2014b). Land Cover of Nepal 2000. Kathmandu, Nepal: International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Available from: (Last accessed 26 July 2021).Google Scholar
Karki, R., Hasson, S., Schickhoff, U., Scholten, T., & Bohner, J. (2017). Rising precipitation extremes across Nepal. Climate 5: 4.Google Scholar
Kendall, M. G. (1975). Rank Correlation Methods. London: Charles Griffin.Google Scholar
Kharal, D. K., Thapa, U. K., St George, S., et al. (2017). Tree-climate relations along an elevational transect in Manang Valley, central Nepal. Dendrochronologia 41: 5764.Google Scholar
Klein Goldewijk, K., Beusen, A., Van Drecht, G., & De Vos, M. (2011). The HYDE 3.1 spatially explicit database of human induced global land use change over the past 12,000 years. Global Ecology and Biogeography 20(1): 7386.Google Scholar
Kogan, F., & Sullivan, J. (1993). Development of Global Drought-Watch System Using NOAA AVHRR Data. Advances in Space Research 13(5): 219222.Google Scholar
Krakauer, N. Y., Lakhankar, T., & Anadon, J. D. (2017). Mapping and attributing normalized difference vegetation index trends for Nepal. Remote Sensing 9(10): 986.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Li, L., Zhang, Y., Wu, J., et al. (2019). Increasing sensitivity of alpine grasslands to climate variability along an elevational gradient on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Science of the Total Environment 678: 2129.Google Scholar
Liang, L., Sun, Q., Luo, X., et al. (2017). Long-term spatial and temporal variations of vegetative drought based on vegetation condition index in China. Ecosphere 8(8): e01919.Google Scholar
Liu, X. F., Zhu, X. F., Li, S. S., Liu, Y. X., & Pan, Y. Z. (2015). Changes in growing season vegetation and their associated driving forces in China during 2001–2012. Remote Sensing 7(11): 1551715535.Google Scholar
Lobell, D., & Burke, M. (2008). Why are agricultural impacts of climate change so uncertain? The importance of temperature relative to precipitation. Environmental Research Letters 3(034007).Google Scholar
LRMP (1986). Land Resources Mapping Project. Kathmandu, Nepal: Survey Department, HMGN and Kenting Earth Sciences.Google Scholar
Mann, H. B. (1945) Nonparametric tests against trend. Econometrica 13(3): 245259.Google Scholar
MoFALD (2017) Local Government Operative Act, 2017 (p. 84). Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal: Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD).Google Scholar
MoFE (2019). National Level Forests and Land Cover Analysis of Nepal using Google Earth Images. Kathmandu, Nepal: Ministry of Forests and Environment, Forest Research and Training Centre.Google Scholar
Myneni, R. B., Dong, J., Tucker, C. J., et al. (2001). A large carbon sink in the woody biomass of Northern forests. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 98(26): 1478414789.Google Scholar
NAPA (2010). National Adaptation Program in Action (NAPA) to Climate Change. Kathmandu, Nepal: Ministry of Environment (MoE), Government of Nepal (GoN).Google Scholar
NRRC (2013). Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium; Flagship Programmes. National Level Conference on Flagship Programmes, Kathmandu, Nepal.Google Scholar
Panthi, S., Brauning, A., Zhou, Z. K., & Fan, Z. X. (2017). Tree rings reveal recent intensified spring drought in the central Himalaya, Nepal. Global and Planetary Change 157(17): 2634.Google Scholar
Paudel, B., Zhang, Y., Li, S., et al. (2016). Review of studies on land use and land cover change in Nepal. Journal of Mountain Science 13(4): 643660.Google Scholar
Paudel, B., Zhang, Y., Li, S., & Liu, L. (2018). Spatiotemporal changes in agricultural land cover in Nepal over the last 100 years. Journal of Geographical Science 28(10): 15191537.Google Scholar
Paudel, B., Zhang, Y., Raju, R., Li, L., & Wu, X. (2019). Farmer’s understanding of climate change in Nepal Himalayas: Important determinants and implications for developing adaptation strategies. Climate Change 158(3–4): 485502.Google Scholar
Pettorelli, N., Vik, J. O., Mysterud, A., et al. (2005). Using the satellite-derived NDVI to assess ecological responses to environmental change. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 20(9): 503510.Google Scholar
Piao, S. L., Fang, J. Y., Zhou, L. M., et al. (2003). Interannual variations of monthly and seasonal normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) in China from 1982 to 1999. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres 108(D14): 4401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Piao, S. L., Fang, J. Y., Zhu, B., & Tan, K. (2005). Forest biomass carbon stocks in China over the past 2 decades: Estimation based on integrated inventory and satellite data. Journal of Geophysical Research–Biogeosciences 110: G01006.Google Scholar
Piao, S. L., Wang, X. H., Ciais, P., et al. (2011). Changes in satellite-derived vegetation growth trend in temperate and boreal Eurasia from 1982 to 2006. Global Change Biology 17(10): 32283239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rimal, B. (2013). Urbanization and the decline of agricultural land in Pokhara sub-metropolitan City, Nepal. Journal of Agricultural Science 5(1): 5465.Google Scholar
Sen, P. K. (1968). Estimates of the regression coefficient based on Kendall’s tau. Journal of the American Statistical Association 63(324): 13791389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sharma, K. P. (2009) Maximum temperature trends in Nepal. An analysis based on temperature records from Nepal for the period 1975–2007. Kathmandu, Nepal: Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), Babarmahal.Google Scholar
Shrestha, A. B., Wake, C. P., Mayewski, P. A., & Dibb, J. E. (1999). Maximum temperature trends in the Himalaya and its vicinity: An analysis based on temperature records from Nepal for the period 1971–94. Journal of Climate 12(9): 27752786.Google Scholar
Shrestha, K. B., Chhetri, P. K., & Bista, R. (2017). Growth responses of Abies spectabilis to climate variations along an elevational gradient in Langtang National Park in the central Himalaya, Nepal. Journal of Forest Research 22(5): 274281.Google Scholar
Shrestha, U. B., Shrestha, A. M., Aryal, S., et al. (2019). Climate change in Nepal: A comprehensive analysis of instrumental data and people’s perceptions. Climate Change 154(3): 315334.Google Scholar
Sigdel, M., & Ikeda, M. (2012). Seasonal contrast in precipitation mechanisms over Nepal deduced from relationship with the large-scale climate patterns. Nepal Journal of Science and Technology 13(1): 115123.Google Scholar
Sigdel, S. R., Wang, Y., Camarero, J. J., et al. (2018). Moisture-mediated responsiveness of treeline shifts to global warming in the Himalayas. Global Change Biology 24(11): 55495559.Google Scholar
Sigdyal, K. P. (1999) Save ecological balance: Environment problems and their solution in Nepal, insight in to diverse facets of topography, flora and ecology. Nepal Nature Paradise 1(1): 221235.Google Scholar
Thapa, R. B., & Murayama, Y. (2012). Scenario based urban growth allocation in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Landscape and Urban Planning 105(1–2): 140148.Google Scholar
Thapa, U. K., St George, S., Kharal, D. K., & Gaire, N. P. (2017). Tree growth across the Nepal Himalaya during the last four centuries. Progress in Physical Geography 41(4): 478495.Google Scholar
Tiwari, A., Fan, Z. X., Jump, A. S., Li, S. F., & Zhou, Z. K. (2017a). Gradual expansion of moisture sensitive Abies spectabilis forest in the Trans-Himalayan zone of central Nepal associated with climate change. Dendrochronologia 41: 3443.Google Scholar
Tiwari, A., Fan, Z. X., Jump, A. S., & Zhou, Z. K. (2017b). Warming induced growth decline of Himalayan birch at its lower range edge in a semi-arid region of Trans-Himalaya, central Nepal. Plant Ecology 218: 621633.Google Scholar
Tucker, C. J. (1979). Red and photographic infrared linear combinations for monitoring vegetation. Remote Sensing of Environment 8(2): 127150.Google Scholar
Tucker, C. J., Pinzon, J. E., Brown, M. E., et al. (2005). An extended AVHRR 8-km NDVI dataset compatible with MODIS and SPOT vegetation NDVI data. International Journal of Remote Sensing 26(20): 44854498.Google Scholar
Uddin, K., Matin, M. A., & Maharjan, S. (2018). Assessment of land cover change and its impact on changes in soil erosion risk in Nepal. Sustainability 10(12): 4715.Google Scholar
Uddin, K., Shrestha, H. L., Murthy, M. S. R., et al. (2015). Development of 2010 national land cover database for the Nepal. Journal of Environmental Management 148: 8290.Google Scholar
Venter, O., Sanderson, E. W., Magrach, A., et al. (2016). Global terrestrial Human Footprint maps for 1993 and 2009. Scientific Data 3: 160067.Google Scholar
Yengoh, G. T., Dent, D., Olsson, L., Tengberg, A. E., & Tucker, C. J. (2015). Use of the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to Assess Land Degradation at Multiple Scales; Current Status, Future Trends and Practical Considerations. Springer Briefs in Environmental Science. Sweden: Springer.Google Scholar
Yuan, X. L., Li, L. H., Chen, X., & Shi, H. (2015). Effects of precipitation intensity and temperature on NDVI-based grass change over Northern China during the period from 1982 to 2011. Remote Sensing 7(8): 1016410183.Google Scholar
Zhao, X., Tan, K., Zhao, S., & Fang, J. (2011). Changing climate affects vegetation growth in the arid region of the northwestern China. Journal of Arid Environments 75(10): 946952.Google Scholar
Zhou, L. M., Tucker, C. J., Kaufmann, R. K., et al. (2001). Variations in northern vegetation activity inferred from satellite data of vegetation index during 1981 to 1999. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres 106(D17): 2006920083.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats