Program Information

  • Management
  • Goals and Background
  • The Science of LCLUC
  • Program Priorities
  • Future Directions
  • Application Themes
  • Program Brochures
  • Photo Gallery

The LCLUC Program was designed to be a cross cutting theme within NASA’s Earth Science. Aspects of Land-Cover and Land-Use Change research can be found throughout the Earth Science Programs, with an emphasis reflecting the program element under which they are funded e.g. hydrology, ecology or biogeochemistry. LCLUC research can also be found in the NASA Earth interdisciplinary science (IDS), and in various data initiatives. A number of the NASA Graduate Fellowships and New Investigators are provided each year to support LCLUC and related research.

A major challenge for the program management is to pull together the various LCLUC activities in a way that minimizes duplication, strengthens the science and exposes the science community to the research findings that are generated in different parts of the program.

The LCLUC Program has a special place in NASA Earth Science in developing interdisciplinary approaches combining aspects of physical and social science, with a high level of societal relevance. The LCLUC Program has always had close program links to the NASA Satellite Instrument Teams pertinent to land-cover and land-use characterization and in particular with the Landsat Program, which is being jointly implemented with the USGS.

At the interagency level and as part of USGCRP, LCLUC is its own program element with linkages to the US Carbon and Water initiatives. LCLUC is already addressing questions being raised by the new initiative on Climate Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation. Partnerships have been developed with other agencies, such as USAID and scientists from the USFS, NOAA and USGS are often funded by the LCLUC program. The program management is interested in strengthening interagency collaboration to further our understanding of land-cover and land-use change and its interaction with climate and environment.

At the international level the LCLUC program is aligned with the goals of the IGBP/IHDP Global Land Project (GLP) and a number of participants in that programs are funded through LCLUC. The LCLUC program is a major supporter of the Global Observation of Forest Cover-Global Observation of Land Dynamics (GOFC- GOLD) program which is part of the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS). LCLUC has been instrumental in the development of regional science network programs in the framework of GOFC-GOLD, NEESPI and MAIRS. The LCLUC program also has strong connections to CEOS through its Working Group on Calibration and Validation, specifically Land Product Validation subgroup, and to the Land Surface Imaging Constellation.

Introduction and Strategy Overview

The Land-Cover/Land-Use Change Program (LCLUC) Program was initiated as a cross-cutting scientific research theme within NASA’s Earth Science. It currently falls within NASA’s Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems Focus Research Area, although aspects of land cover and land use research can be found throughout the Earth Science Program, albeit with an emphasis on aspects of the program element under which they are funded e.g. hydrology, biodiversity, carbon cycle or biogeochemistry. LCLUC related research could also be found in the Earth Science interdisciplinary studies (IDS), the NASA Applications Program and in various program data initiatives such as the ESIPS, ACCESS and REASONS. In addition LCLUC research is undertaken in NASA Education Program, through its New Investigator Program (NIP) and graduate level, NASA Earth System Science Fellowships (NESSF). A major challenge for the LCLUC program management is to pull together the various land-cover and land-use research activities from the various programs and help the science community to be aware of the different projects and science results that are being generated in different parts of the program. To this end and since its inception, the program has held annual science team meetings both for scientists funded directly by LCLUC and those undertaking LCLUC research in other parts of the NASA Program to come together and share their findings.


The LCLUC Program has a special place in NASA’s Earth Science, in developing interdisciplinary science with a high level of societal relevance. To this end, LCLUC is developing a partnership with the Applications Program which can apply the LCLUC scientific findings to address natural resource management questions, starting with agricultural land use change.

Goals and Background

At the interagency level and as part of the USGCRP, LCLUC is contributing directly to interagency cooperation through the USGCRP (formerly US CCSP) Land Use Land Cover Change (LULCC) Research Element and the related Carbon, Hydrology and Climate Research Elements.  NASA LCLUC is already addressing questions being raised by the new initiatives on Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation. Over the years, partnerships have been developed with other agencies such as USGS, USFS, USDA and USAID. Scientists from the USFS and USGS are often funded by the LCLUC program through the programs peer-reviewed competitive process. A partnership activity has recently been developed with the USGS around the Global Land Survey (GLS) 2005 and 2010 in providing global orthorectified Landsat-class data. This project is contributing directly to the international GEOSS program. The program has also been supporting a Direct Broadcast initiative at the Goddard Spaceflight Center, which has close partnerships with the NPOESS Integrated Program Office (IPO).  The program management is interested in continuing to strengthen interagency and international collaboration on data and research to further our understanding of land cover and land use change.

LCLUC is a global program: global satellite-derived data sets are developed through this program and process and modeling studies are funded in various regions of the World. Involvement of regional scientists in our research projects is strongly encouraged, both to strengthen the studies through the input of regional expertise but also to enhance regional scientist’s access NASA assets and policy-makers to benefit from the scientific results and data initiatives. The LCLUC Program has contributed to NASA’s regional experiments, such as the Larger Basin experiment for the Amazon (LBA) and the North American Carbon Program (NACP) and USAID’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE). LCLUC has been instrumental in the development of a number of other integrated regional science programs. In particular the integrated land use projects of the LCLUC Program helped significantly with the early development Northern Eurasia Earth Science Partnership Initiative (NEESPI) and the expansion of the Monsoon Asia Integrated Research Study (MAIRS) Program beyond China.

At the international program level the LCLUC program is aligned with the scientific goals of the IGBP/IHDP Global Land Project (GLP) and the Integrated Land Ecosystem-Atmosphere Processes Study (iLEAPS) and a number of contributory projects to those programs are funded by LCLUC. The LCLUC program is a major contributor to the international Global Observation of Forest Cover – Global Observation of Landcover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) program which is part of the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS). In particular LCLUC has benefited from and contributed to the GOFC-GOLD Regional Networks. GOFC-GOLD is contributing directly to the GEOSS Program. The LCLUC Program also supports the Fire Project Office of GOFC-GOLD and is contributing to the Land Product Validation (LPV) Working Group of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). 

Key Science Questions

The LCLUC research program focuses on these components in addressing the following key land-use science questions:

  • Where are land-cover and land-use changing, what is the extent and over what time scale and how do the changes vary from year to year? (Variability)
  • What changes are occurring in global land-cover and land-use, and what are their causes? (Forcing)
  • What are the impacts of climate variability and changes on LCLUC and what is the potential feedback? (Responses)
  • What are the consequences of changing land-use activities for ecosystems and how do they respond to and affect global environmental change? (Consequences and Responses)
  • What are the consequences of land-cover and land-use change for human societies and the sustainability of ecosystems? (Consequences)
  • How will land-cover change on time scales from years to centuries? (Prediction)
  • What are the projected changes in land-cover and their potential impacts? (Prediction)

LCLUC Science Components

The focus of LCLUC research is on quantifying the location, extent and variability of change, the causes or forcing factors of change, for example, climatic, ecological and socioeconomic drivers, the processes of change and the responses and consequences of change. NASA LCLUC research projects use a combination of space observations, in situ measurements, process studies and numerical modeling. As an interdisciplinary research program, LCLUC fosters strong partnerships between physical and social scientists to develop the integrated science necessary to understand why and how patterns of land-use and land-cover are changing, how they will change in the future and the implications of these changes. LCLUC research crosscuts several other research areas, e.g. climate change and variability, water cycle, carbon cycle, ecosystems and biodiversity, and human contributions and responses to environmental change.

Variability: The current spatial pattern of land-cover is a result of previous and current land-use. Quantifying the location, extent and trends of recent land-cover and land-use change is an important component of land-change science. Satellite systems often provide the only means to inventory land-cover and monitor land-cover change in a timely fashion. NASA has developed procedures for wall-to-wall mapping of land-cover and spatially explicit monitoring of land-cover change. Systematic long-term observations of land-cover are essential to enable scientists to quantify the rates of change and their variability over time. Establishing consistent long-term data records of land-cover is an important objective for the LCLUC Program.

Forcing: To make a projection of how land-cover will change in the future and to be able to better manage land-use it is important to understand the drivers of change. These include the local and proximate physical, socioeconomic and demographic causes of change, as well as the broader global and regional climatic or macroeconomic forces of change. Quantifying processes of land-use change is undertaken by combining in-situ measurements and ground surveys with satellite data. This is often done through regional case studies.

Responses and Impacts: The impacts of land-use change can be biophysical and socioeconomic and they can be positive and negative. Changes in forest cover can affect carbon sources and sinks, local water resources and biodiversity through landscape fragmentation. Changes in fire regimes can affect ecosystem structure, trace gasses, aerosol emissions and water quality. Overuse of marginal lands leads to degradation and impoverishment affecting human livelihood. Agricultural intensification through the use of fertilizers can improve crop production but may degrade water quality. Changes in land-use can affect human health by changing insect habitat or disease vectors. Agricultural abandonment leads to changes in land-cover, for example, by increasing woody vegetation. Urban expansion and suburban development can result in a loss of agricultural lands or wetlands. Changes in land-use can affect local and regional climate.

Prediction and Feedbacks: Modeling of land-use change provides a means to understand the consequences of different land management options and study the feedbacks. For example, coupled land-use and dynamic vegetation models are needed to understand the impacts of future land management on carbon budgets. Recent trends in land-use change and an understanding of the processes of change provide a point of departure for predictive modeling. Spatially explicit modeling of land-use is needed to study scenarios of land change under different land-uses for a large number of science applications. There are a number of approaches for modeling land-use that are currently being investigated, including statistical empirical models, cellular automata and agent-based modeling. Better understanding the impacts of land-use change on climate and the impacts of climate change on land-use is also needed.

Underpinning the Earth science research paradigm (variability-forcing-response-consequences-prediction) is an ongoing program of LCLUC research, which includes the development of new algorithms, methods and techniques for characterizing, monitoring and modeling land-cover and land-use change and validating derived products. This is achieved by combining the new methods and land-use models with remote sensing and GIS. Development of techniques for data management and analyses are needed to handle the large volumes of data needed for global and regional monitoring and analysis. Global and regional data sets of land-cover characteristics developed within this program support the NASA modeling activities and provide the long-term data records needed to study trends.

Program Priorities

Forcing Factors

  • Climatic and ecological drivers: The NASA Land-Cover and Land-Use Change program will rely primarily on existing components of Earth Science and national and international science agencies for the development of historical and climatic data sets.
  • Socioeconomic drivers: The NASA program will investigate the human dimension processes directly when they are coupled to observed recent changes in the landscape or regional predictive models.

Responses and Consequences

  • Land-cover conversion: The primary NASA interest is to identify the current distribution of land-cover types, and to track their conversion to other types. The LCLUC program has a particular interest in the impacts of land cover and land use change on biogeochemical cycles (e.g. carbon and nitrogen) and the hydrological cycle.
  • Land-use intensification: To understand the consequences of intensified management of agricultural, agroforestry, and grazing systems, particularly in the tropics and subtropics. To measure the longer-term in-situ degradation of forested ecosystems that occurs.
  • Land degradation in arid and semiarid environments: To define, develop, and evaluate improved remote sensing measurement techniques and data integration methods for characterizing land degradation. The objective of the research is to provide scientific understanding and observational techniques required for improved efficiency in the management of both managed and unmanaged land resources.

LCLUC researchers are encouraged to use both remote sensing and in-situ data, integrated with geographic information system (GIS) techniques, in a manner which enables improved assessments of causes of land degradation, vulnerability to further degradation, and the development of options for more sustainable land uses.

Modeling and Implications

It is important to develop, parameterize, and evaluate models that couple the biogeochemical and biophysical dynamics of the land surface and atmosphere. This initiative will emphasize the development of data sets and techniques that use representations of the actual land cover present and changes in land cover, rather than potential natural vegetation. Links to other process studies in hydrometerology, tropospheric chemistry, and aerosol radiative forcing will be explored to gain a better understanding of the relationship between changes in land cover, the processes that drive those changes, and biogeochemical and physical changes in the Earth's atmosphere and climate system. In addition to incorporating actual land cover and land cover change in ecosystem process models it is important to develop models of land use change. Prediction of land use change based on an understanding of the processes involved will provide an important tool for framing land management questions.

Ultimately, it will be the ability to model systems undergoing land-use change that will provide tools for both scientists and decision-makers to evaluate the potential consequences of different management practices, and to assess the consequences of policies that affect land cover conversion.

Techniques and Methods

Coordination is sought between the LCLUC Program and the algorithm development and testing within the NASA Terrestrial Ecology Program, the EOS Interdisciplinary Science and Instrument Science Teams. Of particular relevance to this program are the algorithms used to generate higher products from the systematic MODIS and Landsat observations, as LCLUC scientist often use the land cover and change related products from these sensors (Land Measurements Portal). The program makes use of the global archives of coarse and moderate resolution satellite data, acquired over the last twenty or more years for addressing land-cover and land-use change. With the technical problems encountered by the Landsat 7 instrument in 2003, emphasis has been given within the LCLUC program to utilizing data from other U.S. and international moderate resolution sensors (e.g. ASTER, EO1, CBERS, IRS and SPOT). Attention is being given to research on fusion and inter-use of these data products, laying a foundation for an international constellation of moderate resolution sensors (CEOS Land Surface Imaging Constellation Portal). Similarly research is encouraged in the use of fine spatial resolution data (1m-3m) for the study of land use in the context of answering scientific questions.

With NASA focusing on the decadal survey missions, the LCLUC program is interested in the development of new techniques that prepare for the use of new and soon-to-be-available remotely sensed data. In particular the program is interested in LCLUC science applications of microwave systems in support of the DESDynI mission and hyperspectral data in support of the HyspIRI instrument. With respect to technique development, the LCLUC program continues to be interested in technical research oriented towards automated land classification and change detection at regional to global scales, parameterization or validation of land use models using remotely sensed data and data services to improve the state of the art with respect to documenting land-cover and land-use change.

Transitioning Research to the Operational Domain

The LCLUC program is developing a partnership with the Applications program with the NASA Earth Science Applications, Commercialization and Education (ACE) Program. The objective of this partnership will be to demonstrate the societal relevance of LCLUC research through collaboration with operational agencies and organizations in a series of operational pilot projects. Emphasis will be given to the Global Observation of Forest Cover project, an operational pilot project for the Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS).

Priority Regions for Case Studies

  • U.S. and the Americas: The LCLUC program is supporting development of new and improved land-cover and land-use data for the US at regional and continental scales. In addition, NASA is interested in well-documented regional case studies that couple land-use, land-cover, atmospheric and climate data, and ecosystem or hydrological modeling in order to evaluate the response of land systems to multiple stresses. Studies that provide insight into the sustainability or vulnerability of the provision ecosystem goods and services to a combination of anthropogenic stresses, management regimes, and climatic variability will receive priority. Special attention is being given to research that improves our understanding of the influence of local and regional management decisions on the functioning of the landscape.
  • Southeast Asia: A base of scientific investigations must be built within Asian and Southeast Asian countries that will assess the consequences of forest conversion to agriculture, the long-term, in situ degradation of the forested landscape, and agricultural intensification. Proposals that demonstrate linkages to in-country scientists and direct links to existing regional projects will receive priority.
  • Southern and Central Africa: The land transformations currently going on in the dense humid forests, the seasonal woodlands, and savanna systems of Africa are of considerable interest to this program. The LCLUC regional activities will be developed and implemented in conjunction with existing international regional programs such as the USAID Central Africa Project for the Environment (CARPE), and the IGBP LUCC-MIOMBO project. Proposals that demonstrate linkages to in-country scientists and direct links to the host countries will receive priority.
  • Russia and the Countries of the Former Soviet Union: The primary LCLUC efforts in this region will be to take advantage of data sets and studies that have been developed within the context of previous NASA initiatives, and to coordinate activities with those of other agencies with particular interests in the boreal forest. Investigations that focus on understanding the effects of fire, forest management and the carbon cycle will receive priority. Proposals that demonstrate linkages to in-country scientists and direct links to existing regional research activities projects will receive priority.
  • Amazon Basin: The Amazon Basin is a key target area for NASA LCLUC activities. In order to tie closely to other parts of the ESE program, LCLUC joined in a solicitation with the NASA Terrestrial Ecology Program's LBA activity as part of the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA).
  • Semi Arid Regions: Water availability to a large part determines the distribution of agriculture. Changes in precipitation regimes can result in changes in land use. Some semiarid regions are undergoing rapid social, economic or demographic changes and there is a need for a strong scientific underpinning to resource management. Three areas are of current interest to the program: Southern Russia and Central Asia and the Middle East.

Future Directions for the NASA LCLUC Program

With the ongoing and sometimes dramatic changes in global and regional economies, demographics, extreme weather events and climate, land-cover and land-use change will coninue to be an important topic for global environmental change research. The LCLUC program will continue to develop a unique role for NASA in utilizing its satellite assets for the study of LCLUC. The program will endeavor to maintain a balance between understanding the processes and determining the impacts of land-use change. The role of the satellite-data record and process studies in projecting future LCLUC will need further investment and the integration of land-use models with climate and ecosystem models will need to be developed. The procedures that the program develops for periodic inventory of land cover and the detection, characterization and quantification of land-cover change will need to be standardized and transitioned to the operational domain. In the immediate absence of an operational agency providing regular global monitoring of LCLUC, the NASA LCLUC program will need to provide the LCLUC data sets necessary to answer NASA’s earth science questions. In addition to generating science quality land data products, and a consistent data record, it will be equally important for the accuracy of these data sets to be quantified and the data sets to be easily accessible by the science community. Emphasis will be given to studying areas of the planet where rapid change is taking place or where the impacts of the changes are most serious.

The LCLUC program will remain an important component of the NASA Carbon, Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems Focus Area and will continue to look for opportunities to fund LCLUC research through various upcoming NASA earth science research opportunities. The NASA LCLUC program will continue to be an integral part of the US Global Change Research program and the US Climate Change Science Program, contributing actively to the Land Use Interagency Working Group. The NASA LCLUC program will continue to explore partnerships with U.S. government agencies whose programs complement the LCLUC science agenda. As an interdisciplinary crosscutting program, LCLUC will continue to partner with other NASA focus areas and CCSP elements, for example in the areas of Carbon Cycle, Water Cycle, Climate Variability and Biodiversity research. LCLUC will support the new international Global Land Project being developed under the auspices of the IGBP and IHDP. The LCLUC program will continue research in the framework of various regional initiatives supported by NASA, such as the LBA, NACP, the NEESPI and USAID’s CARPE program.

In the next few years the LCLUC program will play an important role in securing the continuity of the Landsat class observations needed for LCLUC science. In the near term, this will involve providing the scientific guidance and support for the rapid development of the Mid Decadal Land Survey. High priority will also be given to ensuring that the Landsat Data Continuity Mission meets the program’s scientific objectives and expediting the mission to close the widening Landsat data gap. In the mid term, the attention will need to be given to the continuous provision of the Landsat class data and products to the LCLUC researchers. The LCLUC program will continue to work with the international efforts to better coordinate satellite observations of land cover through programs such as GOFC/GOLD and IGOL and to broaden the use of NASA data. The program will continue to promote international standards for land cover product accuracy through the CEOS Land Product Validation Working Group. The NASA LCLUC program will continue to explore the development and application of new remote sensing systems to better characterize land cover and new techniques and methods to extract information from remotely sensed data. Emphasis will be given to data fusion and synergistic use of different types of satellite measurements, including passive and active remote sensing. Incorporation of the remote sensing data products in models which incorporate climate process interactions and feedbacks with LCLUC will be given high priority during the next few years. The NASA LCLUC program will continue to foster the incorporation of social processes in LCLUC models and closer interaction between social and physical scientists.

A closer partnership will be sought with the NASA Applications program to further demonstrate the societal benefits of LCLUC research in practical applications in partnership with operational natural resource agencies such as the USDA, USGS, USAID, UN FAO and UNEP. Practical land-use related topics such as urban and suburban development, agricultural expansion and abandonment, fire and flood management, water quality and wetlands and human health require a better scientific understanding and are important both nationally and internationally in the context of economic development, sustainability and vulnerability. It is envisioned that LCLUC research and the various NASA land-cover related products and applications initiatives will contribute to the international Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) leading to direct and tangible societal benefits.

Application Themes

LCLUC science research projects at NASA often have practical applications which are further developed under the NASA Applications Program. The focus of the Applications Program is to provide direct societal benefits from NASA research. The program addresses applications of national priority emphasizing partnerships with agencies with an operational mandate e.g. USDA, USFS, EPA, NPS, UNFAO and UNEP. These applications include aspects of agricultural efficiency, climate mitigation and adaptation, disaster management, water resource management, ecological forecasting and public health. The approach is to enable the assimilation of remote sensing data and Earth Science model outputs to serve as inputs to decision support systems. Through a process of benchmarking, verification and validation the enhancement to the decision support system is documented and a pathway developed for the operational transition. Current projects include the use of remote in forest management, fire risk mapping, fire and invasive species monitoring, flood inundation, crop yield forecasting and famine early warning.

The MODIS Rapid Response System

Hurricane Katrina
Two hours after the National Hurricane Center issued their warning for hurricane Katrina on Aug. 28th 2005, MODIS captured this image from NASA's Terra satellite at 1:00 p.m. The massive storm covers much of the Gulf of Mexico, spanning from the U.S. coast to the Yucatan Peninsula. View higher-resolution image.

The MODIS Rapid Response (RR) system was developed at NASA GSFC to provide near real time delivery of MODIS data for fire monitoring by the USFS. More recently the NASA Applications program has enhanced the RR system to support agricultural, flood and air quality and monitoring with USDA and EPA. Imagery from the RR system are used extensively for disaster monitoring, for example during the 2005 hurricane season. With a focus on rapid data delivery, the algorithms developed for the RR System and the associated web-based mapping have been made available to direct broadcast stations, leading to a large number of regional fire data distribution systems e.g.: CONABIO, Hot Spot Detection System , Mexico; AFIS, Advanced Fire Information Service, Africa; and Sentinel Fire Mapping, Australia.

The NASA Direct Readout Program: Providing a Bridge between NASA Direct Broadcast Earth Science Missions and the Direct Readout User Community

NASA's Direct Readout Laboratory (DRL) at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) is the implementation arm of NASA's Direct Readout Program. The DRL acts as the bridge between Earth science remote sensing missions such as Terra, Aqua, and the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP), and the Direct Readout (DR) community. The DRL encourages communication and maintains an open-door policy with the commercial and research and development sectors. This process provides the DRL with critical information on DR systems currently in use, Rapid Response near-real-time subsets technologies being developed commercially, and the needs of the DR community.

The DRL's close relationship to all of the stakeholders is critical to the promotion of standardization in DR pre-processing sub-systems; DR Science Processing Algorithms (SPAs); visualization and data processing systems; and real-time data/product transport methods and mechanisms. The DRL is able to report the "state of the community" to the NASA mission, while providing the community with a two-way dialogue between the mission objectives and the user needs. The DRL's understanding of both mission objectives and user needs guides the development of real-time DB data management and instrument-specific pre-processing tools. In order to maximize the utility of DB data, the DRL has been developing DR technology tools that will provide end users ready access to instrument data and derivative products from the legacy EOS Terra and Aqua missions, as well as the future NPP mission, thereby enabling real-time local and regional data processing and product generation that benefits and supports environmental, commercial, and public interests and the decision-making infrastructureThe tools have been designed to be scalable, extensible, portable and, most importantly, easy to use.

Direct Readout NASA is supporting Crystal Schaaf (Boston University) to convert selected MODIS data products codes to be compatible with direct broadcast product generation. One such example is the Nadir BRDF adjusted reflectance product. The MODIS instruments on board the Terra and Aqua platforms view the entire Earth at least once a day. However these acquisitions are necessarily made at varying view angles and thus some swaths may appear brighter or darker than adjoining swaths merely because the sensor sees varying degrees of sunlit or shadowed canopy and background. These view angle changes can add another source of variability to imagery that is being classified into land-cover and use categories. The MODIS BRDF/Albedo retrieves a measure of this surface anisotropy by fitting a bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF) model to daily cloud-free, atmospherically-corrected surface reflectances acquired over a 16-day period. This BRDF measure can then be used to correct subsequent images to a single (usually nadir) view angle. The difference in adjoining swaths of surface reflectance of agricultural regions of the North China Plain is clearly visible. By applying the MODIS-derived BRDFs, these view angle effects can be removed and nadir surface reflectances of the entire region can be produced. View higher-resolution image.

Global Fire Information for Resource Management

Transitioning from a research to an operational system with an emphasis on Protected Areas The Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) aims to transition NASA funded research results and observations to operational partners to support decision making for management of Protected Areas (PAs) worldwide. Specifically, a Web GIS developed by researchers at the University of Maryland (UMd) will provide active fire, burned areas and NASA imagery to protected area managers around the World in easy to use formats for decision making. The information will be delivered through web based interactive maps and email and text message alerts. The operational partners in this project are the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Conservation International (CI).


FAO and UNEP are natural hosts for such an operational system as they are the international operational agencies within the UN system that provide global environmental land information. At FAO, FIRMS will be housed in the Department of Sustainable Development and Natural Resources (SDRN) and will compliment their existing suite of projects that deliver near real time information to ongoing monitoring and emergency projects, as well as providing information to the general public. FAO will also provide a direct feed of data to the UNEP-GRID Global Wildfires monitoring site. UNEP-GRID will use the system to enhance the Division of Early Warning and Assessment website which seeks to provide real time information on global fires. The fire data will also be served over the internet by CI's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, a US based NGO to both its regional projects and the broader NGO community. Obtaining satellite derived fire information in a user-friendly format, and in time to use it for operational fire management, has not been easy for park managers working in remote locations and with limited access to the internet. Protected area managers are usually interested in relatively small areas - generally their park and its surroundings. They also require fire information delivered with minimal file sizes that can be accessed by anyone with internet connectivity. FIRMS will meet these requirements in three main ways: by providing MODIS active fire information via an interactive Web Mapping interface, by providing subsets of true color MODIS images and also by delivering fire alerts through emails and cell phone text messages. Additional information can be found at:

Global Agricultural Monitoring: Enhancing the agricultural monitoring and crop forecasting capabilities of the Foreign Agricultural Service using MODIS

The Global Agriculture Monitoring (GLAM) Project aims to enhance the agricultural monitoring and crop production estimation capabilities of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA/FAS) using NASA's moderate resolution satellite data. The project is a collaboration between NASA/GSFC, USDA/FAS, SSAI, South Dakota State University (SDSU), and University of Maryland College Park (UMD) Department of Geography.

GLAM NDVI anomaly image created using MODIS data collected between May 25 and June 9 2005 compared to the mean NDVI for this time-step between 2000 and 2004. The entire Iberian Peninsula was clearly stressed due to the drought in 2005. Reds/Brown represent the regions where vegetation is thin and less dense than average, while tiny flecks of green show where vegetation is healthier than average. View higher-resolution image.

The primary mission of the FAS is to provide agricultural information for global food security through delivery of objective, timely and regular assessments of global agricultural production outlook and the conditions affecting it. To monitor crop conditions, the FAS analysts are provided with multiple remotely sensed products from moderate resolution sensors for target agricultural regions worldwide. This includes providing USDA crop analysts with a sophisticated web interface for analyzing MODIS temporal composites of vegetation index (VI) data, at 250-meter resolution. The web interface provides analysis tools which allow the crop analysts to drill down to the pixel level of detail. Using these data and tools, FAS analysts track the evolution of the growing season and make inter-annual comparisons of season dynamics between individual years as well as relative to reference long-term mean conditions. These comparisons yield anomaly images and plots highlighting regions that have undergone a change in productivity indicative of land-use/cover change. These changes may be due to direct anthropogenic factors such as deforestation and land conversion from forest to croplands and expansion of urban areas; or change due to weather factors such as heat stress, drought, and storms.

GLAM NDVI graph comparing the 2004-05 season with mean conditions for the highlighted crop region in the blue box. The red line, consistently below the green line indicates highly reduced NDVI values throughout the season, due to the severe drought. View higher-resolution image.

To successfully monitor worldwide agricultural regions and provide accurate agricultural production assessments, it is important to understand the spatial distribution of croplands. To do this, Matthew Hansen at SDSU, has developed a global croplands mask to identify all sites used for crop production. Croplands are highly variable Iberian Peninsula drought in 2004-05 depicted by database GUI NDVI anomaly image created using MODIS data collected between May 25 and June 9 2005 compared to the mean NDVI for this time-step between 2000 and 2004. The entire Iberian Peninsula was clearly stressed due to the drought in 2005. Reds/Brown represent the regions where vegetation is thin and less dense than average, while tiny flecks of green show where vegetation is healthier than average. NDVI graph comparing the 2004-05 season with mean conditions for the highlighted crop region in the blue box. The red line, consistently below the green line indicates highly reduced NDVI values throughout the season, due to the severe drought. both temporally and spatially. Croplands vary from year to year due to events such as drought and fallow periods, and they vastly differ across the globe in accordance with characteristics such as cropping intensity and field size. A flexible crop likelihood mask is used to help depict these varying characteristics of global crop cover. This flexible croplands mask which is in currently being validated, is generated by analysis of 4 years of MODIS data (2001-2004). Rather than the traditional static yes/no crop mask, the new map depicts crop likelihood allowing users, to threshold cropland membership according to their needs. Regions featuring intensive agro-industrial farming practices such as the Maize Triangle in South Africa will have higher confidence values in the crop mask as compared to less intensively farmed regions in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa where cropland identification is partly confounded with natural background vegetation phenologies. Thus, a customized threshold can be employed to examine areas of varying cropping intensification.

Program Brochures

Below are links to the official LCLUC Program brochures. Within the brochures are general background information regarding the program, highlighted science projects, and recent goals and initiatives.

2013 Brochure Cover

Download: 2013_NASA_LCLUC_brochure.pdf (3 mb)

2009 Brochure Cover

Download: 2009_NASA_LCLUC_brochure.pdf (3 mb)

2006 Brochure Cover

Download: 2006_NASA_LCLUC_brochure.pdf (64 mb)