The NASA Land Cover Land Use Change (LCLUC) South/Southeast Asia Research Initiative (SARI) held its annual regional science meeting on Environment and Emissions in South/Southeast Asia hosted by the University of Teknologi Malaysia in Johor Bahru, Malaysia from July 22- 25th, partnering with NASA Harvest and other partner programs.
Agriculture is a major sector of the economies of countries in South/Southeast Asia and a source of livelihood for the majority of people in the region. Rapid land use changes are underway across the S/SE Asia region due to urbanization, industrial development, population growth and rapid economic development. These changes and their associated drivers put pressure on the land, catalyzing land cover and land use (LCLUC) changes and impacting ecosystem services, livelihoods, local and regional climate, land and water resources. With the rapidly growing population there is also a recognition by governments that they will need to increase food production in the coming years and establish sustainable water use. Agricultural irrigation is a major component of water use. Maintaining a viable agricultural workforce is also a major policy issue in several countries in the region. This meeting focused on recent research accomplishments and state of the art in S/SE Asia on land use and emissions and reviewed the availability, potential and gaps of different data sources for monitoring and measuring these changes.
The meeting opened with welcome remarks from local host, University of Teknologi Malaysia, followed by remarks from NASA LCLUC Program Manager Garik Gutman, NASA Harvest science lead Christopher Justice and NASA LCLUC SARI lead and Harvest collaborator Krishna Vadrevu, and Matsunaga Tsuneo from the National Institute of Environmental Studies Japan. The meeting had 167 attendees from 16 countries, with strong representation from the region with overviews of regional programs and space agency agendas from the Association of Authorized Malaysian Land Surveyors (PEJUTA), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Vietnam National Space Center (VNSC), University of Philippines, Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the National Institute of Environmental Studies (NIES) of Japan.
South/Southeast Asia is advancing fast in the realm of remote sensing, with new sensors coming online every year from national space agencies and space programs. While operational Asian satellites are in place, an issue remains that many Asian researchers continue to favor US and European data streams over their own national and regional resources due to issues of data access and availability, as many national and regional satellite products come with a high cost. With new sensors, there is an enhanced need for standardization and calibration. Harvest Hub project lead Eric Vermote presented his work on the sensor-agnostic Land Surface Reflectance Code (LaSRC), which laid the groundwork for atmospheric corrections, stressing the importance of calibration.
A dedicated full-day session on Agriculture was led and organized by NASA Harvest, in the context of the international GEOGLAM initiative, focusing on rice mapping and monitoring in the region, and national operational decision support systems. Christina Justice, Harvest Hub researcher and Crop Monitor for Early Warning lead, presented on the GEOGLAM Crop Monitors and their application to the national context, showing examples of the National Crop Monitors developed for key countries in East Africa; notably, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. There was considerable interest in developing similar capabilities for countries in the S/SEA region.
To close the session, Chris Justice, Chief Scientist of NASA Harvest, led a panel of representative top researchers from each country in the region, identifying national priorities and gaps in agricultural monitoring. National priorities included the need for increased use of remote sensing in national crop monitoring systems; support in moving research into the operational domain and the adoption of satellite-based monitoring and crop forecasting by operational agencies; development of incentives for in-situ data sharing; and standardization of drought-monitoring indices. Identified gaps included the need for building geospatial capacity in government and local agencies; slow adoption of new technology by farmers and extension services; field-level monitoring for rapid and robust crop insurance claim settlements; remote sensing to monitor policy compliance and adoption by farmers; and the standardization of satellite methods and products. Highlighted throughout discussions was the need for a focused, regional workshop to share technical expertise and methods for rice monitoring between countries and establish standardization of methods, products and best practices. There has been a fast proliferation of products for rice mapping and monitoring, prompting the community need for standardization.
The meeting was followed by a three-day hands-on training for 85 young researchers with a focus on the use of remote sensing and geographic information systems for land cover/ land use change applications including impact studies of Synthetic Aperature Radar (SAR), MODIS, Landsat and Sentinel, among others. The third day of the training was focused on agriculture, presenting methods for rice mapping using SAR data led by researchers Thuy Le Toan and Hoa Phan from Centre d’ Etudes Spatiales de la BIOsphere (CESBIO), Toulouse.
This article was written by Christina Justice for NASA Harvest.