United States launches new global initiative to track changes in land cover and use

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Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes, co-leading the U.S. delegation to the 2010 Group on Earth Observations (GEO) summit, announced that the United States is launching a new global initiative aimed at developing the first-ever comprehensive and up-to-date database of 30-meter satellite imagery that will show changes in land cover and land uses worldwide.

The Global Land-Cover Data Initiative aims to provide land-managers, decision-makers and communities around the globe with critical information about changes to land use and land cover, Hayes told the delegates from 85 countries and the European Commission at the intergovernmental GEO VII Ministerial Summit meeting in Beijing. This type of sharing of data and technology can help us make wise decision about how best to build a sustainable future, protect our environment, and tackle challenges like pollution and climate change, he said. More than 80 percent of the imagery for the Global Land-Cover Data Initiative can be obtained with Landsat, a satellite program operated by Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with NASA. Hayes asked international partners

at the GEO summit to assist with developing the remaining information that would be needed for a comprehensive global land-cover database. The announcement of the Global Land-Cover Data Initiative follows the announcement on Wednesday of SilvaCarbon, a separate U.S. initiative designed to strengthen global capacity to understand, monitor, and manage forest and terrestrial carbon. (See U.S. Unveils Initiative to Monitor and Manage Forest

Carbon Dynamics, http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/11/03/us-unveils-initiative-monitor-and-manage-forest-carbon-dynamics http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ostp-silvacarbon-release.pdf [SilvaCarbon will bring together a community of U.S. scientists and technical experts from government, academia, non-governmental organizations, and industry into a network that will support efforts to improve access to Earth observation data about forests. It is a key element in the Administration’s comprehensive strategy for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancing forest carbon stocks in developing countries.]

“These investments in the science will promote a better understanding not only of the changes in land cover, but also of the effectiveness of various efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, Abbott noted. They can thus help promote transparency in national and international mitigation actions in this critical sector, and strengthen multilateral efforts to combat climate change as they inform countries on the best ways to design and improve such policies going forward.

Although moderate- resolution global land cover initiatives have been underway for some time and have provided important synoptic global land-cover data, the proposed initiative is based on the fact that higher-resolution (30m) global land cover datasets would permit detection of land change at the scale of most human activity–where change most commonly occurs–and would increase flexibility in environmental modeling. The higher resolution thus is particularly important for studies of ecosystem fragmentation and degradation and ultimately will improve the comparability of assessments conducted across the globe. The 30-meter resolution will produce several land-cover data products for the international community. The first set of products will describe the Earth’s land cover conditions as of 2010, and will include:

1.A 2010 global land-cover characteristics baseline providing quantitative measures of six major land-cover characteristics– percent tree, shrub, herbaceous, surface water and wetness, snow/ice, or barren land-cover. This should be completed by December 2012.

2.A 2010 global map of land-cover and land-use types?such as such as urban and built-up areas, agriculture, forests, grasslands, shrublands, water bodies, wetlands, snow and ice, and barren areas– using the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization classification system. This global layer should be completed by December 2013. Once the baselines are established, it is envisioned that the land-cover characteristics product will be updated annually and the land-cover-type map every five years.



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