Future Directions

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.