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.