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Changes in Ecosystem services in riparian forests amidst Climate Change: A case of the Densu River Basin

Theodora Akweley Asiamah, Albert Nii-Moe Allotey, Andrew Manoba Limantol, Edward Debrah Wiafe

Riparian forests play a significant role in water supply for agricultural activities, domestic and industrial use for surrounding communities. The forests in the catchments also provide functions such as water purification, regulating water flows and facilitating the availability of water resources in the catchments. The forests also provide livelihood opportunities for inhabitants of the communities within the catchment through cropping activities and game. The water in the catchment also serves as habitats for fish and other aquatic species that provide livelihood opportunities in accordance with SDG 1. Consequently, the management of the water and forest resources in forested catchments is very important for attaining SDGs 6, 14 and 15. Over the years, these functions are compromised as a result of direct human activities on the forest and water resources as well as the impact of climate change. The study employed a multi approach which consists of geospatial and social-ecological methods to assess the changes in ecosystem functions of the Densu River Catchment over a period of 30 years and establish the underlying causes of the changes. A quantitative survey was made in which 450 residents in the catchment were interviewed. Descriptive statistics and chi-square analyses were made. In addition, Landsat images of 1991, 2002 and 2021 were analysed to complement the social-ecological survey. Findings from both the satellite images and the survey indicate an increase in built-up areas of the catchment and a decline in forest and farmland over a period of 30 years. We also found a significant difference in the use of the riparian forest for food provisioning between current times and 30 years ago. There is also a significant difference in the use of the water body for domestic purposes between current times and 30 years ago. The study recommends the adoption of urban forestry in town planning by urban planning authorities and the enforcement of buffer zone policies to protect the water body and aquatic species.

Keywords: Densu River Basin, Ecosystem Services, Land-use-land-cover Change, Riparian Forest, Water-Forest Management