LAND USE LAND COVER CHANGES AND THEIR IMPACTS ON ECOSYSTEM SERVICES IN THE NZHELELE RIVER CATCHMENT, SOUTH AFRICA
Land use change can result in variations in ecosystem services (ESS) and their relationships. Studying the temporal dynamics of ESS and their relationships can support scenario analyses that provide the theoretical basis for policy decisions and regional ecosystem management in any context. Understanding the spatiotemporal changes in land use and land cover change helps understand ESS management. In this study, the InVEST model was applied to assess carbon sequestration from 1999 to 2018 and to construct two simulated scenarios that represented different land use strategies. The results showed a spatial increase in the cropland class from the stipulated years with a corresponding increase in carbon within the area. It is assumed that the relationship between these two phenomena can affect agricultural policies as a large portion of South Africa depends on it for livelihood betterment. The Spearman’s Correlation Coefficient was used to assess the relationship between the two ESS. The result showed a highly significant correlation that means a change in policy from a governmental level is required. This paper subtly aims to provide data towards the South African context and more scenarios and research is needed to fully deduce effective land use management policies and decisions.