Future Directions

With the ongoing and sometimes dramatic changes in global and regional economies, demographics, extreme weather events and climate, land-cover and land-use change will continue to be an important topic for global environmental change research. The LCLUC program will continue to develop a unique role for NASA in utilizing its satellite assets for the study of LCLUC around the World. The scientific outreach aspect of the program for NASA data and science is significant.

The NASA LCLUC program will continue to explore the development and application of new remote sensing systems to better characterize land cover and new techniques and methods to extract information from remotely sensed data. The NASA LCLUC program will continue to foster the incorporation of social processes in LCLUC models and closer interaction between social and physical scientists. The program will endeavor to maintain a balance between quantifying and characterizing land use change, understanding the processes and determining the impacts.

The role of the satellite-data record and process studies in projecting future LCLUC will need further investment and the integration of land-use models with climate and ecosystem models will need to be developed. The procedures that the program develops for periodic inventory of land cover and the detection, characterization and quantification of land-cover change will need to be standardized and transitioned to the operational domain. In the immediate absence of an operational agency providing regular global monitoring of LCLUC, the NASA LCLUC program will need to provide the LCLUC data sets necessary to answer NASA’s Earth Science questions. In addition to generating science quality land data products, and a consistent data record, it will be equally important for the accuracy of these data sets to be quantified and the data sets to be easily accessible by the science community. Emphasis will be given to studying areas of the planet where rapid change is taking place or where the impacts of the changes are most serious.

The LCLUC program will remain a component of the NASA Carbon, Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems Focus Area and will continue to look for opportunities to fund LCLUC research through various upcoming NASA Earth Science research opportunities. As an interdisciplinary crosscutting program, LCLUC will continue to partner with other NASA focus areas for example in the areas of Carbon Cycle, Water Cycle, and Tropospheric Chemistry. The NASA LCLUC program will continue to explore partnerships with other U.S. Government agencies whose programs complement the LCLUC science agenda and be a part of the US Global Change Research program and the US Climate Change Science Program, as opportunities allow.  

A closer partnership will be sought with the NASA Applied Sciences program to further demonstrate the societal benefits of LCLUC research through practical applications. Practical land-use related topics such as urban and suburban development, agricultural expansion and abandonment, fire and flood management, water quality and wetlands and human health require a better scientific understanding and are important both nationally and internationally in the context of economic development, sustainability and vulnerability. Partnership with operational natural resource agencies such as the USDA, USGS, USAID, UNDP and UN FAO as opportunities allow. It is envisioned that LCLUC research and the various NASA land-cover related products and applications initiatives will contribute to the international Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) leading to direct and tangible societal benefits. LCLUC will continue to be a partner in the Global Land Programme and with the European Remote Sensing Laboratories Special Interest Group on Land Use and Land Cover(EARSeL).

In the next few years, the LCLUC program will play an important role in securing the continuity of the Landsat class observations needed for LCLUC science with Landsat 9 and beyond. The program will continue to explore multi-sensor data fusion and the use of fine spatial resolution data for land use science. The LCLUC program will contribute to the science requirements for new NASA Decadal Survey instruments and products and investigate the new sensing capabilities as they come on line. The LCLUC program will continue to work with the international programs to better coordinate satellite observations of land cover through programs such as GOFC GOLD, CEOS and GEO and to broaden the use of NASA data through regional workshops and meetings.