Several factors are responsible for urban growth. Increasing urban employment opportunities is one of the factors. Rural- urban migration coupled with natural increase in population caused by improved living standard, are major causes of rapid growth of cities and towns. Rural poverty, search for better living standards, environmental degradation (deforestation and desertification), inadequate and lack of basic amenities and services among other factors are pushing rural inhabitants out of the rural areas. The aim of this research was to assess the effect of urban growth on forest cover of Guga Forest Reserve in Shika, Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Nigeria. The methodology adopted for this research includes classification technique using maximum likelihood algorithm in classifying the images into various classes (themes). This method is preferable due to its high level of accuracy and reliability in handling spatial data. This technique gives room to the researcher to generate training classes based on the land use/land cover themes present in the area. The result revealed that in 1990, about 665.3 ha of forest land was displaced by built-up while in 1999, about 653.3ha of forest was displaced by built-up areas. In 2019, a larger portion of forest land was displaced (479.1 ha) by built-up. The above overlay analysis shows a clear evidence of physical expansion encroaching into the forest land. Areas formally occupied by the forest land has almost being cleared completely giving room for physical development in the area. The research concludes that the period 1986-1990 recorded the highest annual growth (1.7%) while the average annual growth rate within the study period (1986 – 2019) was 0.9%. Unplanned expansion has led to conversion of forest and bare land into physical development. The study recommends that reforestation of degraded areas is also suggested in order to speed up the process of rehabilitation and regeneration of the forest. This entails more annual tree planting and provide tree seedling to farmers to encourage agro-forestry or better still, this will enhance resource management and reduce indiscriminate exploitation of forest cover.
Key Words: Urban growth, Forest cover, Change, Environment