Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia, Tbilisi, Georgia
Georgia, a former Soviet Union Republic, has experienced more political, economic and social change in the last 30 years than most countries. But the environmental implications of these extreme events remain largely unknown - the region is understudied, no national forest inventory has been completed in 15 years, and previous research in the area conducted by the proposal team is now outdated. In this proposal, we outline a plan for a comprehensive analysis of Georgia’s land change patterns and terrestrial carbon dynamics during its dramatic modern history. We will analyze the impacts of shifting policies, globalization, and economic and political turmoil by mining the rich archives of satellite observations from NASA and other space agencies, as well as national census data and local inventories. The research will be implemented in close collaboration with local collaborators. An investigation based on time series analysis of satellite observations of surface reflectance that allows us to track the pixel-level land dynamics over the last 30 years will provide a comprehensive understanding of how Georgia’s dramatic modern history has impacted land use. Based on the history of land use, we will model the associated carbon dynamics using a spatiotemporal carbon bookkeeping model. Panel regression models will explore how local and global socioeconomic change has influenced land change. These analyses, together with estimates of potentially available cropland, will inform projections of future forest and cropland dynamics under different socioeconomic and climate scenarios. Using these data, local collaboration and implementation will aim at informing policy for more sustainable land use. We expect the proposed research to provide much needed environmental and societal information about Georgia that currently does not exist. It will result in a marked increase of Georgia’s UNFCCC reporting capabilities and for the first time, fully explore the postSoviet land change patterns and their implications. At the heart of the proposed investigation are time series of all surface reflectance observations collected over Georgia by the Landsat and Sentinel-2 satellites at spatial resolutions of 10 to 30 meters. By continuously monitor the land surface using these observations, we can readily capture and identify the gradual processes driven by small scale activities that are so characteristic of the post-Soviet Georgian landscape. Processes that are difficult or impossible to identify using more traditional change detection approaches focused on mapping categorical losses and gains of land cover.