The advancement of Earth observation (EO) and improvement in geospatial methods to analyse remotely sensed data provides significant opportunity to gain insights into regional scenarios, to integrate local scale processes with coarser scales, to characterise ecosystem conditions and changes, and to analyse effects of different management and development processes on the functioning of ecosystems.
Analysis of a large amount of historic data can be used for retrospective analysis of the impact of different management and development processes on the functioning of the ecosystems. For example, the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) has declared that 26 out of 50 essential climate variables (ECVs) are significantly dependent upon satellite observations.
Practical use of Earth observation and geospatial technology in developing countries are impeded due to lack of access to quality data, appropriate hardware and software, and skilled human resources. In the HKH, inaccessible terrain conditions and lack of investment in long-term scientific research further exacerbate this problem.
The capacity to utilise earth observation and geospatial technology highly vary among the RMCs. India and China have strong capabilities with their own national satellite programmes, Pakistan and Bangladesh have national institutions responsible for remote sensing research while Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Nepal have limited capacity.
Regional level data sharing, knowledge exchange, spatial data infrastructure, and platforms are also important to address transboundary challenges to support sustainable livelihoods in the HKH. This has been limited in the region due to the lack of an appropriate regional cooperation framework and mechanism.
Recent advances in Earth observation, near real-time data, in-situ measurements, and advancement of information and communication technologies have transformed the way information is generated and used to benefit society. Making optimal use of these technological developments will require observation and science programmes to be closely linked with decision support structures that translate knowledge into actionable information.
Large gaps exist between global developments in Earth observation and adoption of state-of-the-art technology in the HKH. The Geospatial Solutions (GS) Theme aims to bridge these knowledge gaps between global and regional institutes and maintain ICIMOD as a regional knowledge centre for Earth observation and geospatial technology.
The GS theme has developed innovative methods for the following research work:
Forest vulnerability assessments and adaptation planning;
Mobile-based data collection;
Landscape planning for resettlements using Geoplanner;
Agent-based modelling for forest resource management;
Participatory 3D modelling for community engagement; and
Multi-scale flood risk mapping.
During the next five years, GS will continue to develop the following methodologies:
Observation and monitoring biophysical and climatic variables using Earth observation data and various sensors and survey technologies;
Harmonisation of existing data to develop a regionally consistent dataset;
Integration and assimilation of remote sensing data with in-situ observation and land surface models to generate contiguous time series datasets;
Develop data quality and metadata standards for spatial and aspatial data;
Access, process, and analyse data from different satellites and sensors including optical, hyperspectral, radar, and altimeters;
Geospatial analysis and modelling for upscaling and outscaling the pilot studies implemented by RPs; and
Analysis of user demand and development of needs-based information services.