Space Age Technology to Monitor Land Use in the Lower Mekong

Published: May 14 2018

Monitoring land cover and land use change is important for land resource planning, maintaining ecosystem services, and for building resilience to climate change. However, in many cases, maps are produced and updated only infrequently and are often not accompanied by suitable accuracy assessment information and documentation.

In order to address these shortcomings, SERVIR-Mekong developed a new tool called the Regional Land Cover Monitoring System (RLCMS). This state-of-the-art tool uses remote sensing science and associated technologies, open data and the power of cloud computing (Google Earth Engine) to achieve high-quality map products across the Lower Mekong region. The RLCMS helps address challenges to land management, including difficulties in accessing data, limited financial and staff resources, lack of transparency in method, and inconsistencies in land cover maps.

Screenshot of RLCMS land cover map
Land cover map of the Mekong region in 2016, generated by the Regional Land Cover Monitoring System

SERVIR-Mekong is currently providing RLCMS services to Myanmar. This includes the submittal of land cover monitoring data to the Second National Commission and the Forest Department to meet their greenhouse gas reporting requirements to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the Forest Resource Assessment reporting requirements to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, respectively.

“There is a tremendously high demand within the government for good quality geospatial data, that can really inform complex decision-making processes in a time- and cost-effective manner. With its incredible processing power, Google Earth Engine offers ground-breaking new possibilities for the monitoring of these changes and their impact on the environment and the people,” said Dr. Joan Bastide, Chief Technical Advisor for OneMap-Myanmar. “Thanks to this partnership with the SERVIR team, we can help the government take ownership of this technology and adapt it to their needs.”

RLCMS screenshot showing tree canopy percentage overlaid on map
Tree cover canopy percentage in 2015

SERVIR-Mekong plans to extend the application of RLCMS to other countries in the region. The RLCMS is being tapped to inform the “State of the Land Report,” which covers the Lower Mekong region and is supported by the Center of Development of Environment established by the University of Bern, Switzerland.

SERVIR-Mekong is hosted by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), a regional institution specializing in disaster risk reduction and climate resilience for Asia and the Pacific, with technical support from its consortium partners, Spatial Informatics Group, Stockholm Environment Institute and Deltares.

Written by Wadee Deeprawat of SERVIR-Mekong/ADPC.

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