Land cover changes threaten biodiversity by impacting the natural habitats and require careful and continuous assessment. The standard approach for assessing these changes is land cover modeling. The present study investigated the spatio-temporal changes in Land Use Land Cover (LULC) in the Gorgan River Basin (GRB) during the 1990–2020 period and predicted the changes by 2040. First, a change analysis employing satellite imagery from 1990 to 2020 was carried out. Then, the Multi-Layer Perceptron (MLP) technique was used to predict the transition potential. The accuracy rate, training RMS, and testing RMS of the artificial neural network, MLP, and the transition potential modeling were computed in order to evaluate the results. Utilizing projections for 2020, the prediction of land cover change was made. By contrasting the anticipated land cover map of 2020 with the actual land cover map of 2020, the accuracy of the model was evaluated. The LULC conditions in the future were predicted under two scenarios of the current change trend (scenario 1) and the ecological capability of the land (scenario 2) by 2040. Seven landscape metrics were considered, including Number of Patches, Patch Density, the Largest Patch Index, Edge Density, Landscape Shape Index, Patch Area, and Area-Weighted Mean Shape Index. Based on the Cramer coefficient, the most critical factors affecting LULC change were elevation, distance from forest, and experimental probability of change. For the 1990–2020 period, the LULC change was shown to be influenced by deforestation, reduced rangeland, and expansion of agricultural and residential areas. Based on scenario 1, the area of forest, agriculture, and rangeland would face −0.8, 0.5, and 0.1% changes in the total area, respectively. In scenario 2, the area of forest, agriculture, and rangeland would change by 0.1, −1.3, and 1.3% of the total area, respectively. Landscape metrics results indicated the destructive trend of the landscape during the 1990–2020 period. For improving the natural condition of the GRB, it is suggested to prioritize different areas in need of regeneration due to inappropriate LULC changes and take preventive and protective measures where changes in LULC were predicted in the future, taking into account land management conditions (scenario 2).
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