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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 - May 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

Earlier in the summer of 2018, Dr. Vu and his colleagues submitted an abstract for the GIS Conference 2018, to be held in Ho Chi Minh City October 27, 2018. After the abstract was accepted, they wrote and submitted a full paper entitled “Comparison human-induced biomass productivity decline in the Lower Mekong Basin countries using annual NDVI time series derived from NOAA AVHRR and Terra MODIS.” Two members of the project team will participate in the conference and present the paper. On the day prior, they will also attend a “Forum for sharing experiences in application of the Google Earth Engine platform in Vietnam,” hosted by SERVIR Mekong and “Training for QGIS and programming to develop GIS applications,” hosted by VidaGIS.

Dr. Vu visited U.S. co-partner Dr. Venkat Lakshmi and his group at the University of South Carolina September 24 through October 15, 2018. During his stay, he worked with his U.S. counterparts to exchange data, discuss project results, and work on a joint manuscript on human-induced land degradation. The visit also provided an opportunity for discussions of possible further collaboration on an integrated study of soil/land and hydrology aspects in the Lower Mekong.

The PI plans to organize a final workshop in mid-November 2018 to disseminate the project results and get feedback from various stakeholders. About 30 participants (one-third of them women) are being 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 will prepare a final report on the project, including all their results, data, and maps, and they are considering two options for its publication: either as a paper to be submitted to a scientific journal or a book to be published separately. A no-cost extension is being made through May 2019 to allow them sufficient time to complete these planned activities.

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