The NASA Land-Cover and Land- Use Change Progam
e-Newsletter Issue 2: March 2016
The NASA LCLUC Program continues to chart new waters in different parts of the World. The South and South-east Asia Research Initiative (SARI) was presented to and endorsed by NASA senior management at the end of last year and was formally launched at the Regional LCLUC Science Team Meeting in Yangon, Myanmar, in January. The meeting introduced many new regional scientists to the program and how to access and use NASA data through hands-on training. The coordination for this meeting was a challenge, and so special thanks go to Krishna Vadrevu, University of Maryland College Park, for his unwavering commitment to making this an outstanding scientific meeting with broad regional representation. The land use presentations on Myanmar were fascinating and as the new government is established and the country opens up to international investments, this will be a place to study land use, as it changes. We look forward to the next two rounds of the ROSES LCLUC proposal selections to gain critical mass for our research in South and Southeast regions. We are now in the planning stage for the next SARI regional workshop in Ho Chi Minh City in October, 2016 to be held jointly with the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan and local hosts from the Ho Chi Min University of Technology (HCMUT), Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) and Vietnam National University of Engineering and Technology (VNU-ET) to examine agricultural land use and emissions. We are strengthening our regional partnership with the NASA USAID SERVIR program (, specifically its Himalaya and Mekong nodes, with an emphasis on regional capacity building and training on the use of earth observations. Our webinar series continues and this newsletter contains the topics discussed at the recent webinar session pertinent to SARI region.

The coverage and availability of ESA Sentinel data are improving and augmenting the moderate resolution data available from Landsat 8, enabling the LCLUC Multi-source Land Imaging Team to undertake their research using both optical data from Sentinel-2a and radar data from Sentinel-1. We are eagerly awaiting the opening up of the Sentinel-2 archive at the Eros Data Center. Sentinel-2b is planned for launch in the middle of this year. Having two Sentinels and combining their data with Landsat data will substantially enhance our capability for monitoring relatively fast processes in agriculture or, more generally, seasonal changes in vegetation.

The Global Land Project (GLP) Office has moved to its new location at the University of Bern, Switzerland. We are planning to enhance our link to this international LCLUC sister-program, especially to its research component in the SARI region as well as with the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) housed at that university. Our relationship with the EARSeL Special Interest Group on Land Use/Land Cover is continuing with an open international joint EARSeL-LCLUC workshop planned for May, 2016 associated with the ESA Living Planet Meeting in Prague. In the meantime, we are anticipating the upcoming Science Team Meeting in April (Bethesda, Maryland), where we will celebrate the 20 th Anniversary of the LCLUC program. It doesn't seem that long since we held our first Science Team meeting at Airlie House, Virginia and we hope that some of our first round LCLUC alumni will be able to join us.

- Garik Gutman, Program Manager and Chris Justice, Program Scientist
Research Highlights  
The terrestrial biosphere can release or absorb the greenhouse gases,carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O),
and therefore has an important role in regulating atmospheric composition and climate1. Anthropogenic activities such as land-use change, agriculture and waste management have altered terrestrial biogenic greenhouse gas fluxes, and the resulting increases in methane and nitrous oxide emissions in particular can contribute to climate change2,3. The terrestrial biogenic fluxes of individual greenhouse gases have been studied extensively4-6, but the net
biogenic greenhouse gas balance resulting from anthropogenic activities and its effect on the climate system remains uncertain. Here we use bottom-up (inventory, statistical extrapolation of local flux measurements, and process-based modelling) and top-down (atmospheric inversions) approaches to quantify the global net biogenic greenhouse gas balance between 1981 and 2010 resulting from anthropogenic activities and its effect on the climate system. We find that the cumulative warming capacity of concurrent biogenic methane and nitrous oxide emissions is a factor of about two larger than the cooling effect resulting from the global land carbon dioxide uptake from 2001 to 2010. This results in a net positive cumulative impact of the three greenhouse gases on the planetary energy budget, with a best estimate (in petagrams of CO2 equivalent per year) of 3.9 ± 3.8 (top down) and 5.4 ± 4.8 (bottom up) based on the GWP100 metric (global warming potential on a 100-year time horizon). Our findings suggest that a reduction in agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions, particularly in Southern Asia, may help mitigate climate change.   Read More

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Recent Webinar Topics   
Several developing countries in South/Southeast Asia are undergoing rapid urbanization with accompanying changes in land use and lifestyles both within towns and cities and in the rural areas that supply urban areas with food and other resources.
This population growth and urbanization will increase current pressures to convert land from natural and agricultural areas to residential and urban uses with significant impact on ecosystem services. Increased land cover changes can also impact agricultural production efficiencies and environmental impacts on urban, suburban, rural communities and natural areas. A key issue requiring scientific analysis in the region is the balance of LCLUC while minimizing the negative impacts on other ecosystem services. Most importantly, addressing LCLUC research in South/Southeast Asia requires developing strong partnerships with regional scientists to identify gaps and priorities in the region. To achieve these goals, a new initiative named South/Southeast Asia Regional-Science Initiative (SARI) has been launched with funding from the NASA LCLUC program. Read more

Over the next two decades, the combined urban population in China and India will grow by more than 700 million. China's urban population is expected to increase by 400 million and India's urban population will nearly double from today's 350 million. Put into a global context, by 2030, nearly one-third of the world's urban inhabitants will live in either China or India. The primary goal of this NASA LCLUC project was to quantify and understand the growth of urban clusters and the loss of agricultural land in these two rapidly urbanizing countries. I will highlight two key outputs from the project: the development of a methodology to identify the growth of urban clusters and the development of an algorithm to identify the loss of agricultural land. Both methods use time series MODIS and DMSP OLS data to assess land change. Read more

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Across the globe, urban areas are rapidly expanding, and now the majority of the world's population lives in cities. Peri-urbanization, a specific form of urbanization characterized by rapid and fragmented growth, is also increasing rapidly, especially in developing countries. By 2030, it is anticipated that peri-urban areas in East Asia will expand by 200 million people, or 40% of total projected urban population growth, making these areas one of the largest and most significant land cover changes in the region. Characterizing and understanding the peri-urbanization process is critical, as these transition zones have a wide range of impacts across multiple scales, including local effects on farmer livelihoods, regional impacts to economic development, fragmented governance, as well as detrimental environmental impacts such as increased air and groundwater pollution, loss of native vegetation, and decreases in biodiversity. Read more

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PI: Ruth DeFries

Cereal production has increased substantially in the last few decades in South Asia, primarily attributable to intensification rather than expansion of agricultural land area. Intensification has occurred through high-yielding seed varieties, irrigation, fertilizer and pesticide inputs. Moreover, intensification has largely been achieved through multiple cropping, i.e. increasing the number of crops per year from the same field. However, agricultural production is highly variable on an interannual basis and dependent on climate. Agriculture in the region, particularly India, is predicted to be one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change. Read more  

Rice is a major staple food for almost 50% of the human population in the world. Paddy rice fields, where rice plants are cultivated in flooded/inundated soils, are widely distributed across the globe, ranging from single paddy rice crop in a year (single cropping system) in temperate zone to triple paddy rice rice crops in a year in the moist tropic regions (triple cropping system). The information on the area, spatial distribution and dynamics of paddy rice agriculture is important for assessment of food security, management of water resources, and estimation of greenhouse gas (methane) emissions as well as transmission of zoonotic infectious diseases. Satellite remote sensing is one of important approaches to measure and monitor paddy rice fields across local to global scales. Over the past few decades, most research projects have mapped croplands as one of many land cover types through analyses of AVHRR, SPOT-VEGETATION, MODIS, MERIS, and Landsat data. Through the support of NASA LCLUC program, our research group has investigated the spectral characteristics of paddy rice fields over the rice plant growing seasons along the latitudinal gradient, and has assessed the potential of time series images from coarse and moderate resolution sensors such as SPOT-4 VEGETATION and MODIS sensors to identify and map paddy rice fields. Annual regional maps of paddy rice fields in the monsoon Asia have been generated from analyses of MODIS images at 500-m spatial resolutions (Figure 1), based on the phenology- and pixel-based paddy rice mapping algorithms (PPPM), here we called the RICE-MODIS mapping tool. Read more
PI: Jefferson Fox

Webinar Presenter: Kaspar Hurni 
This webinar presentation discussed remote sensing analyses carried out within the NASA grant on "Forest, agricultural, and urban transitions in Mainland Southeast Asia: Synthesizing knowledge and developing theory". This research fulfils part of the grant objectives by mapping the expansion of tree crops for seven selected Landsat footprints in montane mainland Southeast Asia (MMSEA) (see Figure 1). Specifically we sought to map different tree crops (e.g. rubber, eucalyptus, and cashews); ascertain the date/period of change; and identify the land cover that preceded the change.Mapping land use and land cover change in MMSEA is no easy task given the heterogeneity of this fragmented landscape and the speed at which it is changing. We needed an approach that could identify subtle changes in the spectral reflectance of remotely sensed images, as well as cope with the cloud cover and data gaps that limit the information available in the Landsat time series. In the context of mapping urban expansion, researchers faced similar issues and found that a supervised classification of a dense time stack of Landsat data without masking clouds or data gaps was able to deal with these issues. Read more
Past Events
Data and Missions

In the South/Southeast Asia region, population growth together with rapid economic development is causing immense pressure to convert land from forest to agriculture and from agricultural areas to residential and urban uses with significant impact on ecosystem services. Increased LCLUC in the region is disrupting and perturbing forest resources, biodiversity, regional climate, biogeochemical cycles, water resources and other ecosystem services and developing appropriate and effective land use policy is key to the sustainable development of the countries in the region. To address these issues, from January 12th - 18th, 2016 the "International Land Cover Land Use Change (LCLUC) Regional Science Team Meeting in South and Southeast Asia" were held in Yangon, Burma. The purpose of the international meeting was to provide a forum to discuss LCLUC and its impacts, with a regional focus on South and Southeast Asia.
The meeting was organized by the NASA Land Cover Land Use Change (LCLUC) Program in collaboration with the University of Maryland College Park, global change SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training (START), the international Global Observation for Forest and Land Cover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) Program. The meeting was endorsed by the President of Myanmar, with guidance from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Forests (MOECAF) and was hosted by colleagues at the Department of Geography at the University of Yangon, Myanmar. The program included an LCLUC field trip on January 12 th to Bago, a small city located 50-miles north-east of Yangon. Forty-five international participants attended the field trip. LCLUC issues relating to forestry, agriculture, urban including cultural aspects of Burma were shared by the field guide as well as local participants during the field trip.
The international meeting took place from 13th-15th January. More than 150 participants from 12 different countries attended the meeting which included India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, USA, Japan, Myanmar, Germany and Switzerland. The meeting included various scientific sessions on 1). Regional and international programs in South/Southeast Asia; 2). Agriculture and water resources, 3).Forest cover mapping and monitoring; 4). Urbanization and 5). Land-atmosphere interactions including fires; 6). Discussion session on regional priorities for LCLUC in South/Southeast Asia. Each session had one or two keynote presentations followed by invited contributions. The presentations and discussions brought out significant issues pertaining to the drivers and impacts of LCLUC including social, legal, economic, political, physical as well as policy aspects. Also, the role of earth observations, data accessibility issues for addressing LCLUC in the region were discussed. Overall, the meeting served as a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups. The meeting presentations can be downloaded at:
The program also included two days of training during January 16th and 18th, 2016 for 60 local scientists on the use of remote sensing and geospatial technologies for monitoring agriculture, urban areas, forests, fires including air pollution. After the training, all attendees were given participation certificates.
As a part of meeting outputs, a special issue of papers are being solicited on LCLUC issues in South/Southeast Asia with Dr. Vadrevu (UMd), Dr. Nemani (NASA), Dr. Justice (UMd) and Dr. Gutman (NASA) as guest editors. All researchers working on LCLUC issues in South/Southeast Asia are invited to submit articles. Meeting presentations can be accessed from:
Contact Dr. Krishna Vadrevu ( or Prof. Chris Justice ( for more details.
Upcoming Events
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