Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. John All (Director), Dr. Chris Groves, Dr. Jun Yan, Dr. Jason Polk

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


In the context of growing tourism and global warming, the fragile landscape of the Himalayas is under immense pressure because of rapid land cover changes in developing countries like Nepal. Remotely sensed data combined with ethnographic knowledge are useful tools for studying such changes. The quantitative change can be measured analyzing satellite images whereas local people’s perceptions provide supportive information. To measure such changes in Sagarmatha National Park of Nepal, Multispectral Scanner (MSS) and Thematic Mapper (TM) images since 1972 were used. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was calculated for different elevation classes and land cover types. These measurements, along with land cover change (1992- 2006) analysis, shows a significant conversion of the areas covered by ice, shrub and grass to rock and soil. Factors including political conflict due to a Maoist rebellion group, inactive park management, increasing tourist demand, and consequent natural resources exploitation helped to explain the change in the forested areas. This is supported by the information from short, informal, semi-structured interviews with local people. However, the local people are unaware of global warming, which has caused the ice melting and glacial lake expansion. Although global causes are out of the immediate control of land managers, better management practices and managed tourism might help alleviate deteriorating Himalayan ecosystems.


Physical and Environmental Geography