AUBURN – NASA has awarded an Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences researcher a grant of $1 million to study the monsoon climate changes of 20 countries in the portion of Asia that includes the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and China.
“This area is controlled by monsoon climate which is of crucial importance to Asia mainly because it brings the water that supports human life, plants and animals,” said Hanqin Tian, an AU ecology professor and the project’s principal investigator. “Land cover and land use changes are expected to have significant impact on the variability and intensity of the Asian monsoon.”
Tian said there is concern that land cover and land use changes, or LCLUC, caused by urbanization, deforestation and biofuel production, may affect local, regional and global climates.
Tian is working with researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology, the Marine Biological Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the International START Secretariat. START is the global change System for Analysis, Research and Training.
The team is collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Atmospheric Physics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources and the National Institute for Environmental Studies of Japan. The team’s research will evaluate the impacts of land cover and land use changes on climate, water and carbon cycling.
Tian’s goals are to understand the interactions among land use, ecosystems and climates and to project the impacts until 2050. To make these projections, he will create a model of regional climate, ecosystem, land use and economy using NASA satellite pictures, remote sensing and field observations.
“This area is very important in terms of economic development, and it has developed very quickly in the last 20-30 years,” Tian said. “Although the land area amounts to only about 20 percent of the entire area of the globe, the population of the area is more than half the population of the globe. That is a very small area to support the population. An important question is: ‘How will it be sustainable?’”
NASA is interested in this project because it shares similar goals of being able to perform global inventories of land use from space and to understand the consequences of land use on the carbon and water cycles.
“Land is used for urbanization, food production and fuel production,” said Tian. “There is a large demand for energy. People want to use land for energy, to live and for food, so all are competing for land.”
Tian’s team just completed a $1.65 million project, also funded by NASA, which focused soley on China’s ecosystem sustainability. This newly funded project expands the focus from China to the entire region of monsoon Asia.
“NASA’s budget has been cut but they are really grateful for this work and really supportive,” said Tian. “They think it’s an excellent project.”