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Modeling land use and land cover changes in a vulnerable coastal region using artificial neural networks and cellular automata


As one of the most vulnerable coasts in the continental USA, the Lower Mississippi River Basin (LMRB) region has endured numerous hazards over the past decades. The sustainability of this region has drawn great attention from the international, national, and local communities, wanting to understand how the region as a system develops under intense interplay between the natural and human factors. A major problem in this deltaic region is significant land loss over the years due to a combination of natural and human factors. The main scientific and management questions are what factors contribute to the land use land cover (LULC) changes in this region, can we model the changes, and how would the LULC look like in the future given the current factors? This study analyzed the LULC changes of the region between 1996 and 2006 by utilizing an artificial neural network (ANN) to derive the LULC change rules from 15 human and natural variables. The rules were then used to simulate future scenarios in a cellular automation model. A stochastic element was added in the model to represent factors that were not included in the current model. The analysis was conducted for two sub-regions in the study area for comparison. The results show that the derived ANN models could simulate the LULC changes with a high degree of accuracy (above 92 % on average). A total loss of 263 km2 in wetlands from 2006 to 2016 was projected, whereas the trend of forest loss will cease. These scenarios provide useful information to decision makers for better planning and management of the region.

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This material is based upon work supported by a research grant from the US National Science Foundation under the Dynamics of Coupled Natural Human Systems (CNH) Program (grant number: 1212112). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agency.

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Correspondence to Yi Qiang.

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Qiang, Y., Lam, N.S.N. Modeling land use and land cover changes in a vulnerable coastal region using artificial neural networks and cellular automata. Environ Monit Assess 187, 57 (2015).

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  • Coastal sustainability
  • Land use land cover change
  • Coupled natural-human dynamics
  • Artificial neural network
  • Cellular automata