Mountain regions present opportunities for land science because they are exceptionally diverse in terms of ethnicities, provide opportunities for cross - border studies, and are often the pl ace of armed conflicts. However, mountain regions also present unique challenges for remote sensing. Our main goal is to study land use in mountain regions to increase understanding of the drivers of land use change, especially in relation to ethnicity, national policies, and conflicts, and to advance remote sensing of mountain regions. Our specific objectives are to: 1) map land cover and land use change across the Caucasus Mountains from 1985 - 2015 2) understand the socio - political drivers of land chan ge, including a) ethnic diversity within a given country, b) national policies, and c) armed conflicts and 3) test and apply algorithms for the topographic correction of Landsat images. The Caucasus is a great study area for these questions because of it s high ethnic diversity, multiple countries, numerous conflicts, and highly variable topography. We will map LCLUC from Landsat TM/ETM+/OLI image composites. We will analyze the effects of ethnic differences, national policies and armed conflicts, using econometric approaches including matching statistics for panel data. We will test and apply topographic correction algorithms based on both empirical and physical models. We will use topographic correction in our analyses, and share our implementation of them for potential use by other Landsat scientists.
The project will result in at least five peer - reviewed journal articles. We will create wall - to - wall maps of land change for the Caucasus mountains, which we will make freely available, and we will tra in two PhD students and one postdoc. The main outcome of our project will be a great advance of the study of land use in mountain regions. In terms of interpretation, we will assess the effects of ethnicity, national policies and conflicts on land change i n mountainous regions. In terms of observation, we will test and apply approaches to correct satellite imagery for topographic effects in mountainous regions.
Our proposed research focuses on the first element of the RFP, i.e., LCLUC in mountainous region s, which have been less studied with remote sensing due to obvious difficulties in observations and interpretation . In terms of observations, observations are impacted by distortions due to topography, hence improvements in remote sensing processi ng and analysis methods are needed , and we will work on the issue of topographic correction of satellite imagery. In terms of interpretation, the RFP mentions social and economic perturbations leading to land - use conflicts , and we will study armed conflicts, ethnic difference, and national policies. In terms of the LCLUC program goals, our research will contribute to the understanding of human - natural systems, and especially of the social and political drivers of land change, and pertain to two of the major international programs supported by LCLUC: GOFC - GOLD and the IGBP - IHDP Global Land Project.