LCLUC Newsletter - Spring 2022

LCLUC Newsletter Fall 2022


We are pleased to present the latest developments from our LCLUC projects, Science Team members, and related land-cover and land-use change research.

This edition includes a detailed programmatic update from our Program Manager Dr. Garik Gutman, news highlights including updates on new satellite and data products, webinars, and much more.

Take a moment to check out the LCLUC Hotspot Mapper product on our website that shows the geographical distribution of high impact land-use and land-cover change hotspots studied in various LCLUC projects.

We invite you to join our mailing list to receive updates about the LCLUC program!

Enjoy the updates!

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Message from the Program Manager

Dear LCLUCers,

The past year has been marred by the gloomy war in Ukraine, with the threat of an escalation to a global, nuclear conflict. The atrocities by the aggressor towards the civilians and the current destruction of the civilian infrastructure in the center of Europe is unimaginable for the 21th century. On the other hand, it seemed that the world got accustomed living with the COVID virus. They say, a bitter joke in Kiev, once the bombs and rockets started falling on Ukrainian cities, was that to the question “What’s the situation with COVID at your place?”, the answer would be “What is it?”. We all became experts in virtual meetings and review panels. But with time we gradually started socializing and attending in-person meetings. Although the mask regimes have been until recently less strict almost everywhere, the statistics show some increase in infections, and I see again more masks donned inside shops in our area. Read More

Recent Solicitations

- ROSES LCLUC-2022 Solicitations - SARI Synthesis  Find More

- ROSES 2022 Ecological Conservation Application Area (formerly Ecological Forecasting)  Find More

- ROSES 2022 Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology Find More

- ROSES 2022 Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science Find More

- ROSES 2022 Land Cover/Land Use Change Find More

Journal Special Issues

Our changing planet: Half-a-century landscape dynamics observed from space

This Research Topic called for papers using long-term time series of satellite observations to study land-surface changes around the World, providing new insights into regional changes in surface variables and landscape dynamics. The emphasis on time series was prompted by the celebration of 50 years of Landsat ‘moderate resolution’ observations, which began with the ERTS program in 1972. Find More

Special Issue "Land Cover and Land Use Change in Conflicted Societies" in Science of Remote Sensing

Political instability due to drastic shocks such as armed conflicts is prevalent in the world, and can strongly affect society and environment. Monitoring land cover and land use change (LCLUC) amid the conflicts is vital for providing humanitarian aids for food security and post-conflict planning. The recent proliferation of very-high resolution, high frequency, and multi-modal remote sensing data sets from public and private sectors has opened new opportunities in land change monitoring in the conflicted area, where remote sensing is often the only means for information collection. This special issue calls for the latest research on understanding the impacts of LCLUC caused by armed conflicts and political instability. We welcome papers that focusing on changes in agriculture, forest, grassland, urban environments, as well as population displacement in the regions that experienced armed conflicts and political instability. Papers on conflict-induced LCLUC with a direct or indirect link to climate change are also welcome. Find More

Special Issue "Remote Sensing of Land Cover Change, Degradation, and Impacts on Environment in South/Southeast Asia"

The major causes of land-cover change (LCC) and degradation in several Asian countries are the rapid increase in population and economic development. Inappropriate land-use systems and land-tenure policies are further importance causes of land degradation. Due to its synoptic, multi-temporal, multi-spectral and repetitive coverage capabilities, remote sensing can be effectively used to quantify LCC degradation and associated impacts. Furthermore, in South/Southeast Asian countries, there is an increasing need to develop consistent regional LUCC products useful for environmental impact assessment and policymaking. This Special Issue invites the submission of articles focusing on the LCC and degradation issues in the region and their impacts, integrating both remote sensing data and ground-based measurements. The articles can focus on:

  • Land-cover changes, degradation mapping and monitoring in different environments such as forests, farmlands, urban environments, woodlands, mountain environments, wetlands, etc.
  • The use of optical multispectral, hyperspectral, and LIDAR as well as thermal IR observations from satellites and airborne remote sensing assets for land-cover mapping and degradation assessment, including impacts.
  • Land-cover changes, degradation and associated impacts on environment, such as greenhouse gas emissions, loss of nutrients, air, water and soil pollution, etc.
  • Spatio-temporal data mining, data fusion, modeling and analysis of land-cover change, degradation and impact assessment studies.

Find More

LCLUC Webinars

LCLUC Forest Hotspots - Webinar Series 2022

Recent And Upcoming Missions And Data

ESA WorldCover 2021

With an ever-changing environment, more than ever governments, businesses and individuals need high-resolution, accurate and timely land-cover information. For this purpose, ESA initiated the WorldCover project which was kicked off in 2019. The WorldCover map is the first global land cover product based on both Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 data. The WorldCover products are delivered in a regular latitude/longitude grid (EPSG:4326) with the ellipsoid WGS 1984 (Terrestrial radius=6378 km). The legend includes 11 generic classes that appropriately describe the land surface at 10m: "Tree cover", "Shrubland", "Grassland", "Cropland", "Built-up", "Bare / sparse vegetation”, “Snow and Ice”, “Permanent water bodies”, “Herbaceous Wetland”, “Mangrove” and “Moss and lichen".

Learn More

Celebrating 50 Years of Landsat

Since 1972, the joint NASA/ U.S. Geological Survey Landsat series of Earth Observation satellites have continuously acquired images of the Earth’s land surface, providing uninterrupted data to help land managers and policymakers make informed decisions about natural resources and the environment. The NASA/USGS Landsat Program provides the longest continuous space-based record of Earth’s land in existence. Landsat data give us information essential for making informed decisions about Earth’s resources and environment.

 Learn more

News Highlights

Earth Science Collaboration Meetings in Vietnam

A series of meetings on Earth Science Collaboration was successfully held in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the week of 7-11 November 2022. These were coordinated by the NASA Headquarters (HQ), the NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR), the NASA Representative for Asia (Tokyo Office), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi in the U.S. side, together with the Vietnam Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), the Vietnam National Space Center (VNSC), the Vietnam National University (VNU) Hanoi University of Science (HUS), and the Ho Chi Minh City University of Natural Resources and Environment (HCMUNRE) on the Vietnamese side.  The U.S. Ambassador Marc Knapper attended a formal reception and made the opening remarks at the VNU HUS meeting. Dr. Jack Kaye from NASA HQ make keynote speeches at both the VNSC and HCMUNRE meetings on the overall NASA Earth satellite missions, Earth science achievements, and future plans, using inputs from multiple NASA R&D Programs, including materials from the LCLUC Program provided by Dr. Garik Gutman. Dr. Son Nghiem from JPL presented specific examples of Earth science results from research collaboration between NASA and Vietnam, primarily from science projects supported by the LCLUC Program. There was an array of Vietnamese presentations on Earth science and applications, remote sensing strategy, space programs, national and international policies by ministries, institutions, and universities in Vietnam. Both sides carried out discussions, including those in the MOST meeting, on open science and open data, on Earth science priorities from the near term to the long term, and on potential collaboration directions such as satellite mission synergy, airborne campaigns, and in-situ field experiments for science calibration and validation of future satellite missions. Moreover, a NASA Earth Science Event was organized by the U.S. Embassy in coordination with NASA OIIR, and was hosted at the American Center in Hanoi, which attracted extensive public interests and the mass media in Vietnam. Read More

Son V. Nghiem

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA.

Larger Wheat Harvest in Ukraine Than Expected

Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 fueled widespread concern about the effects on the country’s farming sector. In the early days of the crisis, food security specialists wondered if Ukrainian farmers would be able to harvest the wheat and barley they had planted the previous fall. They also worried that declining grain exports from Ukraine might throw global markets into turmoil and trigger food shortages continents away. “Now we are starting to get answers, said Inbal Becker-Reshef, director of the NASA Harvest program. “Our satellite-based production numbers for the 2022 winter wheat crop in Ukraine make clear that farmers had a largely successful harvest. The NASA Harvest team calculated that farmers harvested 26.6 million tons of wheat in 2022, several million tons higher than expected in leading forecasts. “That’s down from the previous year’s record harvest of 33 million tons, but it’s close to the five-year average of 27.9 million tons,” Becker-Reshef added. However, Ukraine does not have access to 22 percent of that wheat in the eastern part of the country due to the war. 

Read More

How Nepal Grew Back Its Forests - NYTimes

Nepal is showing results after decades of effort, a rare success story in a world of climate disasters and despair. Community-managed forests now account for more than a third of Nepal’s forest cover, which has grown by about 22 percent since 1988, according to government data. Independent studies also confirm that greenery in Nepal has sprung back, with forests now covering 45 percent of the country’s land. But the increase in wildlife has also been accompanied by a sharp increase in human-animal conflict as animals cross the boundaries of the poorly fenced parks. Members of Nepal’s marginalized groups who live around the heavily patrolled national parks say the government is trying to move them away from their lands so as to restrict their access to grass, fish and herbs. While the growth of the forests is primarily a result of community forestry, experts say, migration and decreasing dependence on agriculture have also contributed to it.

Read More

Vast tropical tree farms push into biodiversity hotspots

Commercial tree plantations make up a much larger share of the increase in tree cover in the tropics between 2000 and 2012 than national data would indicate. Tropical forests store large amounts of carbon, making them crucial for climate-change mitigation. This has led some countries in the tropics to pledge to increase tree cover. But many nations plan to do this in part by expanding plantations, groves of a single type of tree — such as oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) — that is grown for agriculture or logging. Plantations are less wildlife-friendly and tend to be more fire-prone than natural forests. Matthew Fagan at the University of Maryland in Baltimore and his colleagues examined satellite images gathered between 2000 to 2012, showing tree cover in tropical countries ranging from Indonesia to Brazil. The researchers found that natural growth accounted for less than half of the increase in cover during this period. Plantations accounted for around 32 million hectares of the increase — substantially more than the 21 million hectares reported by national governments. More than 90% of this expansion took place in biodiversity hotspots, such as the Atlantic Forest in Brazil.

Read More

View all LCLUC News

Recent Meetings

2021-22 NASA LCLUC Science Team Meeting &

Silver Jubilee Celebration

Bethesda, MD, USA

10/18/2022 to 10/20/2022

The 2022 NASA Land-Cover and Land-Use Change (LCLUC) Science Team Meeting was held from October 18-20, 2022 at Hyatt Regency Bethesda, MD. It marked the 25th Anniversary of the NASA LCLUC program. On this special occasion, the meeting reflected on the program's current and past achievements and shared valuable experiences from the past quarter century with the LCLUC community. The meeting identified current research challenges and future directions for the program that will enable researchers to plan and build strong foundations for future research. The meeting featured invited presentations from various national and international partners from across the globe, posters from the LCLUC new projects and panel sessions focusing on various land-use and land-cover change themes. The sessions covered presentations on many current and former earth observation missions, data and products, national and international program partnerships, regional programs and outstanding LCLUC topics. More than 130 participants, including current and former LCLUC principal investigators, team members and invited guests from NASA Headquarters and national and international sister programs, celebrated the Program's Silver Anniversary. Overall, the LCLUC Science Team Meeting succeeded in its objective of bringing together LCLUC to further develop partnerships and collaborations, address and improve upon ongoing issues and collect community feedback regarding LCLUC science to keep the LCLUC program aligned with community needs and concerns. 

International Workshop on Land Cover/Land Use Changes, Forestry, and Agriculture in South/Southeast Asia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

08/08/2022 to 08/102022

This workshop was the first in-person South/Southeast Asia Research Initiative (SARI) series of international, regional workshops after the 2.5-year COVID-related hiatus. Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), Cambodia, acted as the local host, along with the participation from several other regional and international organizations. The workshop aimed to review the availability, potential, and limitations of remote sensing data sources and methodologies useful for forestry and agricultural applications, including Greenhouse Gas emissions in South/Southeast Asia. The workshop brought together about 70 experts from 12 countries (USA, Europe, and Asia). US State Dept.' USAID local representatives in Cambodia also attended and updated on the ongoing projects. The primary sponsors of the workshop include the NASA LCLUC program, the National Institute of Environmental Studies (NIES) Japan, the University of Tokyo, Japan, START, USA, and RUA, Cambodia. The Day 1 of the workshop focused on Programmatic presentations and land cover/land use change (LCLUC) in forestry theme, Day 2 on the agricultural LCLUC, and Day 3 on the Greenhouse Gas emissions and aerosols. The workshop had several keynote presentations by experts on the above themes, followed by technical presentations and discussion sessions. In addition to highlighting the latest methods in satellite remote sensing technologies useful for forestry, agriculture and pollution studies, the discussion sessions helped identify critical research and application needs. Meeting presentations can be found here.

After the meeting, a 2-day training event was organized at the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), Cambodia. Nearly 90 participants from different countries attended the training. Four researchers (USA (2), Japan (1), and Thailand (1)) led the training on open-source remote sensing and GIS tools useful for forests, agriculture, and water resources.

As a part of the meeting outputs, a special issue on "Remote Sensing of Land Cover Change, Degradation, and Impacts on Environment in South/Southeast Asia" in the Remote Sensing journal is being published (Guest Editors: Dr. Krishna Vadrevu, Dr. Chris Justice and Dr. Garik Gutman). Deadline: May 31st, 2023. More details here.

Upcoming Meetings

2023 NASA LCLUC Science Team Meeting

Colllege Park, MD

05/08/2023 to 05/12/2023

Training Workshop on Fundamentals of Remote Sensing

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

02/08/2023 to 02/10/2023

International Meeting on Air Pollution in Asia – Inventories, Monitoring and Mitigation

Hanoi, Vietnam

02/01/2023 to 02/03/2023

Featured Publications

Spatial variations in vegetation fires and emissions in South and Southeast Asia during COVID-19 and pre-pandemic

Krishna Vadrevu, Aditya Eaturu, Emily Casadaban, Kristofer Lasko, Wilfrid Schroeder, Sumalika Biswas, Louis Giglio & Chris Justice 

Scientific Reports volume 12, Article number: 18233 (2022)

Vegetation fires are common in South/Southeast Asian (SA/SEA) countries. However, very few studies focused on vegetation fires and the changes during the COVID as compared to pre-pandemic. This study fills an information gap and reports total fire incidences, total burnt area, type of vegetation burnt, and total particulate matter emission variations in SA/SEA during COVID-2020 and pre-pandemic (2012–2019). Results from the short-term 2020-COVID versus 2019-non-COVID year showed a decline in fire counts varying from − 2.88 to 79.43% in S/SEA. The exceptions in South Asia include Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, with a 152% and 4.9% increase, and Cambodia and Myanmar in Southeast Asia, with an 11.1% and 8.5% increase in fire counts in the 2020-COVID year. The burnt area decline for 2020 compared to 2019 varied from − 0.8% to 92% for South/Southeast Asian countries, with most burning in agricultural landscapes than forests. Several patches in S/SEA showed a decrease in fires for the 2020 pandemic year compared to long term 2012–2020 pre-pandemic record, with Z scores greater or less than two denoting statistical significance. However, on a country scale, the results were not statistically significant in both S/SEA, with Z scores ranging from − 0.24 to − 1, although most countries experienced a decrease in fire counts. The associated mean TPM emissions declined from ~ 2.31 Tg (0.73stdev) during 2012–2019 to 2.0 (0.65stdev)Tg in 2020 in South Asia and 6.83 (0.70stdev)Tg during 2012–2019 to 5.71 (0.69 stdev)Tg in 2020 for South East Asian countries. The study highlights variations in fires and emissions useful for fire management and mitigation. Read more

Evaluation of the Landsat-8 Albedo Product across the Circumpolar Domain

Angela M. Erb, Zhan Li, Qingsong Sun, Ian Paynter, Zhuosen Wang, Crystal Schaaf  

Remote Sensing. 2022, 14(21), 5320

Land surface albedo plays an extremely important role in the surface energy budget, by determining the proportion of incoming solar radiation, which is available to drive photosynthesis and surface heating, and that which is reflected directly back to space. In northern high latitude regions, the albedo of snow-covered vegetation and open, leafless forest canopies in winter, is quite high, while the albedo of boreal evergreen conifers can either be quite low (even with extensive snow lying under the canopy) or rather bright depending on the structure and density of the canopy. Here, we present the further development and evaluation of a 30 m Landsat albedo product, including an operational blue-sky albedo product, for application in the circumpolar domain. The surface reflectances from the Landsat satellite constellation are coupled with surface anisotropy information (Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function, BRDF) from the MODerate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). The product is extensively validated across diverse land cover and conditions and performs well with root mean squared error of 0.0395 and negligible bias when compared to coincident tower-based albedo measurements. The development of this Landsat albedo products allows for better capture of ephemeral, heterogeneous and dynamic surface conditions at the landscape scale across the circumpolar domain. Read more

Automated extraction of aquaculture ponds from Sentinel-2 seasonal imagery – A validated case study in central Thailand

Lin Yan, David.P. Roy, Arunee Promkhambut, Jefferson Fox, Yongguang Zhai

Science of Remote SensingVolume 6, December 2022, 100063

The incidence and size of aquaculture ponds are related to a variety of economic, social, environmental, and policy factors, but there is scarce publicly available information. Satellite based aquaculture pond mapping has typically been undertaken by segmentation of single-date images or of temporal composites derived from image time series. In Asia, both aquaculture and rice farming can be undertaken in the same locality and, combined with frequent cloud cover, meaning that segmentations should be derived throughout the year to be able to differentiate aquaculture ponds from rice paddies and to provide spatially-complete pond mapping results. In this paper, a new approach is presented to extract individual aquaculture ponds from seasonal Sentinel-2 10 m images and to combine different sets of pond objects extracted from different images into a single set of pond objects. Read more

Oil palm reconciliation in Indonesia: Balancing rising demand and environmental conservation towards 2050

Yu Xin, Laixiang Sun, Mathew Hansen

Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 380, Part 2, 20 December 2022, 135087

Oil palm plantation has expanded rapidly in Indonesia, driven by the enormous increase in the global demand for oil palm products. While the production and exporting of oil palm products have stimulated economic growth and improved living standards of local people, the expansion has imposed significant costs on the environment. Indonesia faces tough challenges to balance oil palm production with the growing commitment to protect tropical forest and peatland. This research offered a comprehensive assessment of the local responses in land-use changes and the associated environmental impacts in Indonesia to the dynamics on the global market of oil palm products. We employed generalized geo-economic gravity models to project export demand for oil palm products from Indonesia by 2050 under three different international trade scenarios.

Read More

Desert Locust Cropland Damage Differentiated from Drought, with Multi-Source Remote Sensing in Ethiopia

Woubet G. Alemu, Christopher S. R. Neigh

Remote Sensing. 2022, 14(7), 1723

In 2020, Ethiopia had the worst desert locust outbreak in 25 years, leading to food insecurity. Locust research has typically focused on predicting the paths and breeding grounds based on ground surveys and remote sensing of outbreak factors. In this study, we hypothesized that it is possible to detect desert locust cropland damage through the analysis of fine-scale (5–10 m) resolution satellite remote sensing datasets. We performed our analysis on 121 swarm point locations on croplands derived from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and 94 ‘non-affected’ random cropland sample points generated for this study that are distributed within 20–25 km from the ‘center’ of swarm affected sample locations. Integrated Drought Condition Indices (IDCIs) and Vegetation Health Indices (VHIs) calculated for the affected sample locations for 2000–2020 were strongly correlated (R2 > 0.90) with that of the corresponding non-affected group of sample sites. Drought indices were strongly correlated with the evaluation Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Indices (SPEIs), and showed that 2020 was the wettest year since 2000.

Read More

Using Deep Learning and Very-High-Resolution Imagery to Map Smallholder Field Boundaries

Weiye Mei, Haoyu Wang, David Fouhey, Weiqi Zhou, Isabella Hinks, Josh M. Gray, Derek Van Berkel, Meha Jain

Remote Sensing. 2022, 14(13), 3046

The mapping of field boundaries can provide important information for increasing food production and security in agricultural systems across the globe. Remote sensing can provide a viable way to map field boundaries across large geographic extents, yet few studies have used satellite imagery to map boundaries in systems where field sizes are small, heterogeneous, and irregularly shaped. Here we used very-high-resolution WorldView-3 satellite imagery (0.5 m) and a mask region-based convolutional neural network (Mask R-CNN) to delineate smallholder field boundaries in Northeast India. We found that our models had overall moderate accuracy, with average precision values greater than 0.67 and F1 Scores greater than 0.72. We also found that our model performed equally well when applied to another site in India for which no data were used in the calibration step, suggesting that Mask R-CNN may be a generalizable way to map field boundaries at scale. Our results highlight the ability of Mask R-CNN and very-high-resolution imagery to accurately map field boundaries in smallholder systems.

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Spatio-temporal unevenness in local land system regime shifts caused by land deals in Lao PDR

Nicholas R. Magliocca, Evan A. Ellicott, Micah L. Ingalls, Michael Epprecht, Cornelia Hett, Vong Nanhthavong, Ariane C. de Bremond

Ecology & Society. 2022, Volume 22, Issue 24

Extensive land-use “regime shifts” have been observed as rapid transitions from natural land cover or subsistence-oriented land use to intensified and/or expanded commodity production. However, it is often unclear whether these land-use changes are part of broader land system regime shifts in which pre-existing production systems and livelihood strategies are fundamentally transformed along with observable land-use changes rather than simply displaced or eliminated. This study investigated whether nationally extensive land-use changes implemented through large-scale land deals in Lao People’s Democratic Republic resulted in full, partial, or no village- and landscape-level regime shifts in and around land deals. Overall, land deals triggered a wide variety of full, partial, and no regime shift outcomes. Land deals with both domestic and foreign investors produced positive and negative outcomes, although foreign land deals for the production of rubber led to significantly higher rates of indirect land-use change in impacted villages than domestic and/or non-rubber land deals. Also, financial compensation alone was insufficient to improve community well-being because it could be reinvested to perpetuate previous land uses without the desired transformation in livelihoods and rural development. Land deals that exhibited greater social embeddedness were more likely to lead to positive regime shifts. This study demonstrate that any land system regime shift will produce both winners and losers, and thus it becomes necessary to critically analyze the localized distribution of social and environmental costs and benefits within broader-scale land-use regime shifts.

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