Michigan State University, East Lansing, United States
Evidence suggests that while forests worldwide are being converted and degraded, tree cover outside of forests may be increasing at a rapid pace, especially in developing countries and in semi-arid agricultural landscapes. Systems of trees outside of forests (TOF) include agroforestry complexes, small-holder plantations, orchards, energy farms and woodlots, hedgerows and shelterbelts, scattered individual trees and other woody perennial establishments in predominantly small holder agricultural landscapes. This project will quantitatively examine increasing TOF in small holder agriculture landscapes of India. We shall also examine the farmer processes that promote increases in TOF in small holder agriculture systems. The conventional wisdom for more than two decades has been to see LCLUC in Asia through a lens of agricultural expansion and concomitant loss of natural ecosystems. Moreover, land degradation is viewed as a dominant characteristic of agricultural land use in Asia. When viewed this way we often overlook how significant increases in tree cover in small holder agricultural landscapes is to our understanding of carbon sequestration, new transitions and drivers of LCLUC, and the needs of policy and development communities. This project is central to understanding where and how natural ecosystem conversion and land degradation are being reversed.
This project examines the following hypotheses, using India as a test: (1) Throughout Asia, especially in semi-arid landscapes, there is a trend toward increasing stems and biomass in systems of trees outside of forests (TOF), and (2) Small holders, generally in semi-arid agricultural landscapes, promote the establishment of TOF to capture the value of ecosystem services (ES). The project focuses two on objectives: (Obj 1) Develop and deploy a remote sensing detection and inventory approach to TOFs in agricultural land, with a focus on mapping individual trees and small tree patches which are not in forest. (Obj 2) Integrate methods from economic analysis to determine the factors that are driving these trends using quantitative econometric valuation of ecosystem services to ascertain if there is a correlation between increases in tree cover and high financial valuation of ES. Few studies have formulated a theory of land transitions in these landscapes.
The first component of research involves remote sensing to detect and measure the area of TOF through a combination of Landsat-class data and hyperspatial (0.6-1m) data. The second component involves field surveys and econometric analysis to assess small-holders economic valuation of ecosystem services (ES) in their promotion of TOF. A Tier 1 analysis deploys fractional tree cover (fC) mapping using sub-pixel spectral unmixing of Landsat data. A Tier 2 analysis is directed at mapping TOF geometries using 6m LISS IV data. A Tier 3 analysis is an object-based image analysis (OBIA) with 0.6-1.0m hyperspatial data.