Changes in land use/land cover have important consequences on the management of natural resources including soil and water quality, global climatic systems and biodiversity. This study analysed the spatial and temporal pattern of land use/land cover change in the Camili forest planning unit that includes the Camili Biosphere Reserve Area within the Caucasian hotspot, in the northeast corner of Turkey. To assess the patterns during a 33-year period, the necessary data were obtained from forest stand maps and evaluated with Geographic Information Systems and FRAGSTATS. Results showed that the total forested areas increased from 19 946 center dot 5 ha (78 center dot 6% of the study area) in 1972 to 20 797 center dot 3 ha (81 center dot 9 per cent) in 2005 with a slight net increase of 851 ha. Softwood cover types (411 center dot 8 ha) completely transitioned to other cover types over 33-year period. In terms of spatial configuration, the total number of forest fragments increased from 172 to 608, and mean size of forest patch (NIPS) decreased from 147 center dot 7 ha to 41 center dot 8 ha during the period. Nearly 84 per cent of the patches in 1972 and 93 per cent of them in 2005 generally seem to concentrate into 0-100 ha patch size class, indicating more fragmented landscape over time that might create a risk for the maintenance of biodiversity of the area. There were apparent trends in the temporal structure of forest landscape, some of which may issue from mismanagement of the area, social conflict, and illegal utilization of forest resources due to ineffective forest protection measurements. The study revealed that it is important to understand both spatial and temporal changes of land use/land cover and their effects on landscape pattern to disclose the implications for land use planning and management. Copyright (C) 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.