We promote continuous discovery and responsible use of resources in novel ways while
designing systems and processes that safeguard the environment
In many parts of the world, land is increasingly altered due to natural factors (such as soil erosion, storms, floods, and drought) and anthropogenic activities (such as deforestation, agricultural land conversion, and urbanisation) leading to the loss of ecosystem functions. These range from the provisioning of important services such as food and water, regulating climate and disease, to supporting nutrient cycling and cultural services that have a number of spiritual and recreational benefits. For example, the practice of clearing forests and their conversion to agriculture can result in disruption of both provisioning as well as regulating services through the loss of carbon with adverse impacts on water quality and climate. Similarly, the slash-and-burn agriculture with short-rotation cycles can disrupt not only the biogeochemistry of soil but also result in the release of greenhouse gas emissions with negative effects on regulating services. On the other hand, poverty, land tenure insecurity, widening global markets, and national policies also drive land conversions and degradation.
We closely work with the local communities to improve our understanding of how land-use changes and exploitation of natural resources are disrupting ecosystem functions or degrading the environment. This is a fundamental approach we have adopted to promoting effective and responsible people-centred land governace. Research is still required to quantify land-use change and degradation, and their impact on ecosystem services. We need to establish the condition of balance, resilience, and interconnectedness that allows human society to satisfy its needs while conserving biological diversity and not exceeding the capacity of supporting ecosystem to continue regenerating the services necessary to meet those needs. This requires maintenance of the factors and practices that do not compromise quality of the environment/ecosystem so that it remains equally capable of supporting our future generations.
For this purpose, promoting the intensification of such an environment requires the design of community and family level mechanisms through which to address trade-offs between individual productivity and increased collective sustainability. Remote sensing technology with its multispectral, multi-temporal, synoptic, and repetitive coverage capabilities can provide valuable information on the land resources, vegetation, and productivity, including ecological functions. Consistent time-series data at a spatial resolution of higher than 1m to 1km can be used to monitor and document land-use/cover changes and degradation. The results generated from this information can provide useful insights into land management practices and policy decisions.
Although remote sensing imagery has improved in recent years, such modern techniques also have limitations. In particular there are limitations to assess land use (since remote sensing is primarily intended to assess land cover), and some slow changes such as forest regrowth cannot easily be observed with remote sensing techniques which require long observatory periods in order to detect. In addition, forest area with low canopy cover density (e.g. 10-30%) are difficult to detect with remote sensing techniques. Nonetheless, we need to promote continuous discovery and responsible use of resources in novel ways while designing systems and processes that safeguard the environment using fit-for-purpose tools understandable by the local communities.