Loss and degradation of terrestrial and aquatic habitats and degraded water quality are major environmental concerns worldwide. Especially wetlands are sensitive ecosystems that are subject to stress from human activities. Remote sensing techniques have been primarily used to generate information on land cover/use changes. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing can be used to provide a rapid or a large-scale understanding of lake change and in developing lake management strategies. The principal objectives of this study are to monitor and assess the spatial and temporal changes in land cover/use by using GIS, and to determine the main environmental factors affecting these changes. This paper presents a case study for the application of integrated remote sensing and GIS data for the classification and monitoring of the spatial and temporal changes in land use types. The study was conducted in a small natural wetland of Lake Cheimaditida, located in the East Mediterranean region of Northern Greece. Data analysis was conducted using GIS software. During the past several decades Lake Cheimaditida wetland has been influenced by many anthropogenic activities. The variables chosen for the assessment included condition of wetland and lake areas, present extent of wetlands relative to historic area, cover of natural habitat, wetland disturbances, etc. These variables address catchments properties that are important for maintaining and improving wetland habitats and water quality and assessment of trends useful for environmental monitoring. Land cover/land use patterns were assessed and compared using aerial photographs taken in 1945, 1969, 1982, and 1996. Over this period, reed beds enormously increased by 1,655.19%, while open-water areas and peat lands decreased by 74.05 and 99.5%, respectively. The significance of the changes in land cover distribution within the Lake Cheimaditida wetland are discussed in relation to the historical pattern of reed beds colonization, the importance of Phragmites australis in the process and the implications for strategic management of freshwater wetland resources.
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