Land-Cover/Land-Use Change in Southern Vietnam Through the Lenses of Conflict, Religion, and Politics, 1980s to Present

Principal Investigator: 
Jessica McCarty
Miami University, USA

Decades of conflict, colonialism, growing population, and global agriculture commercialization have resulted in land-cover/land-use change (LCLUC) on multiples spatial scales throughout Southeast Asia. These changes have had a profound impact on the ethnic minorities, particularly in southern Vietnam. Vietnam has experienced significant political, economic, and environmental change since the 1950s and the end of colonialism and French Indochina. All LCLUC in Vietnam must consider the impacts of the Vietnam War and subsequent regional and internal conflicts, the establishment of the one party government under the Communist Party of Vietnam, recent market and trade liberalization, and a complex religious and sociocultural tapestry. This project focuses on the Dong Thap and An Giang Provinces of the Mekong Delta region, which are home to some of Vietnam's largest ethnic minorities, including Khmers and Cham people. They are also home to a uniquely Vietnamese form of Buddhism, Hoa Hao, which figures importantly in the modern history and landscape of the region. Hoa Hao emphasizes the connection of an individual to the land in a relationship that is intimately ethical, spiritual, and national. The advent of the satellite era enables studies of the physical changes on the environment but to fully understand the trajectory of landscape change it is necessary to incorporate the social and religious factors endemic to the region. We propose to map the changes and model the future trajectory of LCLUC by incorporating a sociocultural framework in a spatial modeling environment for the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam, with humanistic and sociological studies combined with very high resolution LCLUC in the Dong Thap and An Giang provinces. This project will map all agricultural, forest, and urban LCLUC around the Tram Chim National Park in Dong Thap Province, agricultural areas in both provinces, and the two cities of Cao Lanh, Dong Thap Province and Long Xuyen, An Giang Province using Landsat and very high resolution (VHR) Digital Globe data from NASA Commercial Archive Data for years 1985 to 2018. In year 3, the VHR LCLUC mapping will extend to the entire Mekong Delta region. This project will utilize decision tree algorithms within a data science approach to mine the Landsat archive and WorldView-1, -2, and -3 data on the large computing capacity of the Advanced Data Analytics Platform (ADAPT) at NASA GSFC’s NCCS ( Using a mixed methods approach of historical documentation, in-country interviews, qualitative method of cultural vignettes, and quantitative methods of socioeconomic development pathways, we will extract historical, current, and future land cover/land use change trajectories and theories of change. Historical documents will be retrieved in-country and from the U.S. Library of Congress. In addition to socioeconomic data, this project will focus on the impact of conflict, religion, and political changes on LCLUC. These sociocultural and socioeconomic variables are important given the complex religious, ethnic, and economic tapestry of the region. These theories of change will be used to create scenarios of future LCLUC mapped to Boolean grids (Swetnam et al., 2010) and tested against a Markov chain approach. GIS models of future LCLUC will combine the remote sensing-derived products with the spatially explicit theories of change and other suitability variables within geostatistical weighted models and tested against the large region. Working with our in-country collaborator, open source web visualization and Atlas.ti KML linked file will be created to display historical, current, and predicted spatially-explicit 10-30 m resolution LCLUC of these two provinces.