New Research Network to Address Critical Environmental Challenges in India

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
March 2, 2017
Filed under , ,
New Research Network to Address Critical Environmental Challenges in India
University of Leicester

University of Leicester researchers to assess impact of climate and greenhouse gas emissions on agriculture in the Indo-Gangetic Plain

Researchers from the University of Leicester have been funded to set up a new international research network with the Indian Institute of Technology- Kanpur (IIT-Kanpur) to assess the impact of climate on agriculture in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.

The IGP extends across Northern India connecting to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal and is region of large scientific and economic interest.

Increasing agricultural production and industrialisation to meet the demands of a growing population means that human-induced disturbances threaten the natural ecosystem in this region.

Such changes have been observed to impact the quality of air and emissions of greenhouse gases and therefore the need to monitor land-use and the regional greenhouse gas budget is becoming critical.

In addition to these pressures, large climatic variations such as extreme changes in rainfall or temperature can also significantly impact crop productivity, food and water security in the future.

The project will focus on combining expert knowledge in Earth observation space sensors, highly accurate ground-based measurements with state-of-the-art models of the land surface to determine the climatic drivers of yield modulations and its relation to greenhouse gas emissions.

This project will be led by Dr Hartmut Boesch (PI) and Dr Harjinder Sembhi (Co-I) in the UK and by Professor Sachichi Tripathi in India.

Dr Hartmut Boesch, Reader in Earth Observation at the University of Leicester, said: “The Indo-Gangetic Plain is a very important region for the regional food supply and the use of EO data will give us novel means of studying the sensitivity of this area to environmental changes.”

Dr Harjinder Sembhi, Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Leicester, said: “This project presents an exciting opportunity for UK and Indian researchers to align their scientific expertise to understand and address the environmental challenges that exist already and are likely to continue to affect communities around the IGP.”

The project links with researchers from the Centre for Climate and Landscape Research (CLCR) through the Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation (LISEO) and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford through the National Centre for Earth Observation Science (NCEO).

The programme has also created new partnerships with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Indian Institute for Technology-Delhi (IIT-Delhi).

Funded by the UK – India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), this is the first international research programme of this kind to bring together the UK Earth observation community with Indian experts to explicitly address the challenges in monitoring climate impacts on agriculture.

The use of novel Earth observation datasets used in the project will provide a much better understanding of regional and long-term changes across the IGP and how they impact agricultural yield.

The project is also focused on the transfer of skills and training of young scientists and students of both countries to help build a sustainable partnership.

Image caption: This image shows the NDVI (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index) over India, calculated from data collected by NASA’s MODIS space sensor.

The NDVI indicates the presence of live vegetation on the Earth surface; the deeper the intensity of green (as observed across North India), the denser the vegetation. The signatures observed in the NDVI data (shown here for March 2013) are indicative of wheat and barley crops which form part of the “Rabi” or winter crop season.

Note: Data were processed using Google Earth Engine.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.