One of the regional science meeting and field visits on land cover/land use change (LCLUC) held during January 19-23, 2013 at Coimbatore, India (http://lcluc.umd.edu) suggested that in South Asia, LCLUC are occurring rapidly due to increasing urbanization. The meeting provided an international forum to bring scientists together to discuss LCLUC and its impacts, with a regional focus. This science meeting was sponsored by the NASA’s LCLUC Program, the International System for Analysis Research and Training (START) Program and our Indian counterpart the Karunya University (Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu). Nearly 120 participants from India attended the meeting. In addition, there were 18 researchers from the U.S., 3 from Nepal, 2 from Sri Lanka, and 1 each from Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Based on the presentations and discussions, an invited panel of regional scientists concluded the meeting with the following recommendations (Vadrevu et al. 2013):
- Developing bilateral collaboration activities between South Asian countries and with the U.S. would strengthen regional LCLUC research and enable exchange of students and researchers.
- LCLUC research is a high priority in South Asia. Both natural as well as agricultural systems in the South Asian region are undergoing natural as well as human-induced pressures and as such provide an opportunity to develop underpinning science.
- Research into the links between LCLUC and climate change studies are needed, as are studies focusing on the impact of LCLUC on human livelihoods.
- A multiyear regional science initiative is needed, complementing initial national funding and international funding. Such an initiative should include data sharing and infrastructure, including data centers focused on implementation of the initiative.
- The panel was in full agreement that developing a major regional integrated science initiative named South Asia Regional Initiative (SARI)—with a central theme of LCLUC aspects.
- There is a need to strengthen capacity building activities on the use of satellite remote sensing datasets for LCLUC research.
- A regional integrated science initiative would enable regional scientists to promote scientific data collection and dissemination activities. This would be facilitated by developing a dedicated data center.
Following the above recommendations, there is a need to bring together researchers from diverse disciplines including remote sensing, engineering, natural as well as social science expertise, which together would provide the foundation for a broader regional initiative. SARI will thus build on the combined strengths of researchers from US as well as South Asian countries to develop an integrated research agenda for addressing LCLUC aspects in the region. The program will be expanded to Southeast Asia in the coming years. Our vision is to develop an innovative research, education, capacity building and training program involving state-of-the-art remote sensing, engineering, natural sciences, and social sciences useful for both US and India faculty and students. Moreover, we will emphasize fundamental ecological and social processes including climate changes that reflect regional concerns relating to LCLUC and impacts that cut across regional boundaries.
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