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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

GIS and remote sensing application for assessment of land degradation in the Lower Mekong River Basin

PI: Quyet Vu (, Soils and Fertilizers Research Institute
U.S. Partners: John Bolten, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and Venkat Lakshmi, University of South Carolina
Project Dates: December 2016 - July 2019

Project Overview

Land and forest are being overexploited in the Lower Mekong River Basin (LMB) due to the pressure of rapid economic development and high population growth. These factors may impact the functions and services of land ecosystems, including biomass productivity. Because human livelihoods in the LMB still rely strongly on agricultural production, land degradation will be a significant issue for development strategies. In tropical regions, poverty and land degradation are often part of a downward spiral: poverty and economic marginalization lead to overexploitation of land resources, resulting in land degradation, which then leads to more serious poverty. To combat land degradation, policy makers often need information to identify areas of most intense degradation in order to plan strategic interventions. The specific objectives of this project include
  • Producing a map of geospatial biomass productivity decline for the LMB (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand), using long-term biomass productivity trends as a proxy for land degradation;
  • Differentiating human-induced land degradation from climate-driven signals by examining the temporal correlation between long-term biomass productivity trends and climate data; and
  • Identifying potential underlying processes (population density, soil/terrain conditions, and land-cover types) that affect land degradation.
The map of land degradation hotspots to be created may help researchers and policy makers identify locations in the LMB where more detailed actions may be required. Through project activities, team members will improve their research capacity and knowledge regarding applications of geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing (RS) for assessing natural resources. Land degradation is also linked with biodiversity loss and climate change at the global and local levels, so this project should also help to serve as a reference database for further studies on climate change impacts, adaptation, and mitigation of emissions from land use in the agriculture, land cover, and forestry sectors. The project team will be supported by U.S. partner Dr. Bolten, who has experience in remote sensing research in the same region. He and other NASA colleagues will check the Vietnamese researchers’ analyses and calculations of geospatial data and contribute their expertise to other project activities, including technical workshops and joint publications.

5-257 Kickoff Meeting5-257 Map Data Verification
The team introduces the project to the local research community.Key team members review available maps and satellite images.

Summary of Recent Activities

On October 27, 2018, two members of this project team participated in the GIS Conference 2018 in Ho Chi Minh City, during which they presented their joint paper authored with U.S. partners John Bolten and Venkat Lakshmi. After the paper was published in the conference proceedings, it was selected as one of the best papers presented, and after revisions it was published in the Journal of Science, Ho Chi Minh City University of Education. The citation is as follows: Vu, M.Q., Nguyen, D.T., Tran, T.M.T, Bolten, J., Lakshmi, V. 2018. A comparison of human-induced biomass productivity decline in the Lower Mekong Basin countries using annual NDVI time series derived from NOAA AVHRR and Terra MODIS. Journal of Science, Special Issue: Natural Science and Technology, Ho Chi Minh City University of Education Vol. 15 (11b), 94-100 (in Vietnamese). The paper showed the trends of NDVI data derived from AVHRR/NOAA and Terra MODIS in the overlapping period (2001-2015). The authors analyze these trends and examine the relationship with rainfall from CHIRPS data. They found that the trend over 15 years of human-induced biomass productivity declines from the two datasets was relatively similar (around 13-14% total land mass). In addition, they note in the paper that MODIS NDVI data with a shorter tracking time can be used as in complementary fashion to existing NDVI AVHRR data sources. In addition, following up on the visit by the PI Dr. Vu to U.S. co-partner Dr. Venkat Lakshmi and his group at the University of South Carolina in September/October 2018, members of this project team completed another manuscript draft. As of May 2019, the journal to which they submitted it requested further revisions, so they will work on those during the coming months.

On June 4, 2019, the PI will organize a final workshop to disseminate the project results and get feedback from various stakeholders. About 30 participants (one-third of them women) are invited, including staff from research organizations in Vietnam, representatives of USAID/Vietnam, and policymakers and government officers interested in the research topic. In addition to the PI and his group, other researchers working on similar studies will also present their results in this workshop. Dr. Vu and his colleagues have also produced a book on their work (in Vietnamese) entitled Biomass Productivity-Based Assessment on Land Degradation in the Lower Mekong Basin, including all their results, data, and maps. Copies will be distributed to the workshop participants and further to other colleagues and stakeholders not in attendance.

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