Study: Integrating satellite and socioeconomic data to improve climate change policy

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News BureauShare Print E-Mail

IMAGE: Atul Jain led a study that used a combination of satellite and census data to identify deforestation and expanding saltwater farming as the key physical and socioeconomic drivers of climate… view more  Credit: Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Bangladesh is on track to lose all of its forestland in the next 35-40 years, leading to a rise in CO2 emissions and subsequent climate change, researchers said. However, that is just one of the significant land-use changes that the country is experiencing. A new study uses satellite and census data to quantify and unravel how physical and economic factors drive land-use changes. Understanding this relationship can inform climate policy at the national scale in Bangladesh and beyond.

The study, led by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign atmospheric sciences professor Atul Jain and postdoctoral researcher Xiaoming Xu, is published in the journal Regional Environmental Change.

“Land usage changes when biophysical factors like temperature and soil quality change, but also when the economic needs of people change,” Xu said. The study identifies two key areas where land use and cover have shifted because of biophysical and socioeconomic activities in Bangladesh – and suggests policies to mitigate their influence on climate change.

First, the team found that approximately 11% of the forests in Bangladesh have shifted to shrub land, cropland and urban land from 2000-10.

“Extreme climate events, such as drought and flood, changes in urban and rural population and economic conditions are driving the changes from forest to shrub land in the southeast region of Bangladesh,” Jain said. “Here, the locals earn their livelihood by using land, lumber and fuel resources from forests. However, deforestation may be controlled by implementing simple policies such as road improvement, which can provide the people with a means to obtain alternative fuels and livelihoods that are not as dependent on forests.”

The study also found that from 2000-10, the area of standing water bodies such as ponds, lakes and reservoirs increased by approximately 9%. This change occurred in the coastal southwest part of the country, where worsening floods during monsoon months have pushed aquaculture expansion at the cost of cropland in recent decades, the researchers said.

“The rapid conversion of traditional rice-farming land to saltwater shrimp ponds is now a well-established practice in the southwest coastal area of Bangladesh,” Xu said. “Shrimp farming is 12 times more profitable than rice cultivation in this country.”

The flooding and expansion of saltwater farming have led to increased soil salinity, spoiling the soil for farming purposes, the researchers said. “Policies need to be developed that encourage the development of saltwater aquaculture only in the regions with favorable conditions to prevent further soil degradation,” Jain said.


The U.S. Department of Energy supported this research.

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May 30, 2020 10:25 pm

I hardly suspect forests are the only way to capture/cycle carbon.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
May 31, 2020 12:49 am

What is this BS? The last thing Bangladesh needs to worry about is its “climate change policy” .

The country is a cesspit of sweatshop labour , buildings and factories which fall on peoples heads or burn everyone alive.

The whole ecology is falling apart due to mismanagement ( or total lack of management ) of the river and its delta. You really have to be some kind of arrogant climate zealot, set up in some professorship chair in Illinois, to think that you can pontificate about “informing climate policy” in Bangladesh.

There is no “climate policy” they are trying to survive. They are a hundred years away from the kind of affluence which allows them the luxury to worry about “carbon emissions”.

They are TEN TIMES more affected by land sinkage than rising sea levels. People are adapting to the simple physical realities around them.

What do these academic jerks have to say to help the population?

– and suggests policies to mitigate their influence on climate change.

ie more liberal virtue signalling and a complete disregard for the lives of the country they are studying. Disgusting.

Ron Long
Reply to  Greg
May 31, 2020 3:15 am

Your comments are right on, Greg. The comment that made me go “huh?” was where the author complained about the transition to shrimp farming, in saltwater invaded areas, and the shrimp farming was 10 times more profitable than rice farming! As Greg suggests the main cause of saltwater inundation is pumping of freshwater out of coastal marsh lands…guess what… the lands subside and saltwater invades. What a crazy study.

Steve Keohane
Reply to  Ron Long
May 31, 2020 5:13 am

It sounds more like adapting to climate change rather than being oppressed by the same.

Jim Whelan
Reply to  Steve Keohane
May 31, 2020 10:00 am

But it’s not climate change at all! It’s adapting to the most financially and economic use of the land.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Greg
May 31, 2020 8:53 am

Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world (excluding city/states like Singapore and small islands like Bermuda). At 3,000 people per sq. mi. is is twice as dense as Taiwan and South Korea and 3 times as dense as Netherlands and Israel.

It is clearly past the point of viability. Only a heroic effort at population control like the One Child policy, or actually exporting 10s of millions of people could possibly bail them out. Ecological damage is inevitable and catastrophic loss of life will go with it.

But, Bangladesh is not a lesson for advanced industrial countries. Impoverishing ourselves in an attempt to lower sea levels cannot save Bangladesh. They are too far gone, and their problem is not sea levels.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
May 31, 2020 12:01 pm

Out of date assessmemt. Their economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, 8.2% in 2

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
May 31, 2020 7:02 pm

You must have read Paul Ehrlich’s masterpiece,
Population Bomb (1968). He prophesied that Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, would suffer from massive famines by the early 1980s. As usual he was wrong, yet environmentalists still worship the ground he walks on.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Greg
May 31, 2020 11:54 am

Greg, I agree with your main point, but not your view of the economy in Bangladesh. It seems not well known that the country has the world’s fastest GDP growth the last several years at 8-9%. The government has put in policies that have been turning the economy toward efficiency and prosperity through modernization including construction of large clean coal fired electricity plants. Their fertility rates have been dropping dramatically in the well-known pattern.

Al Gore even tried to argue against the new coal fired power but the PM said her priority is the prosperity of her people. Such an outdated idea on our wonderful world

Reply to  Greg
May 31, 2020 4:29 pm

Thank you Greg.

I got as far as the title:
“Study: Integrating satellite and socioeconomic data to improve climate change policy”

-> More social sciences BS.

High Treason
May 30, 2020 11:13 pm

Irrespective of any actual science, the conclusions and recommendations will be the same-humans are at fault and must pay taxes on air to the UN or the world will end. The same conclusions and recommendations came out when scientists were convinced that man made CO2 was going to cause another ice age.
Such ludicrous assumptions that humans (especially political enemies) are the cause of anything bad in the world are nothing new. Amazing how many dung beetles there are out there who swallow unlimited quantities of bovine excrement without question.

ivor ward
May 30, 2020 11:28 pm

What would be normal research into land usage, dressed up with the climate change cloak to get the research grant. Results provided to allow for another research grant to further study. Rinse and repeat until the retirement party.

May 30, 2020 11:56 pm

“The flooding and expansion of saltwater farming have led to increased soil salinity, spoiling the soil for farming purposes, the researchers said. “Policies need to be developed that encourage the development of saltwater aquaculture only in the regions with favorable conditions to prevent further soil degradation”

What on earth does that have to do with climate change? The usual bangladesh climate narrative since 1990 has been for decades that OMG the country is going under water due to the sea level rise of climate change or that it will be destroyed by climate change driven monster tropical cyclones.

Have they given up on that?

Reply to  Chaamjamal
May 31, 2020 12:04 am

As for climate action policies to capture more photosynthesis carbon, kindly note that bangladesh is a nonAnnex country and as such has NO climate action obligation under the UNFCCC.

Steve Richards
May 31, 2020 12:41 am

Forests being stripped!
Give people access to low cost reliable electricity and they will leave the forest alone.
The UK was lucky to find and start using coal bug time a couple of hundred years ago. Our forests nearly disappeared

May 31, 2020 12:46 am

I see that one of the recommendations is to improve roads so that alternative fuels can be brought in to reduce the reliance on forest fuel! I wait with interest to see what the activist will think of that idea.
At present in the UK they seem quite happy to see large areas of US forest felled to make wood pellets that are processed and transported using fossil fuel to be burnt at Drax power station in the UK on the basis that it is renewable, in spite of the fact that it takes about 80 years to sequester the carbon dioxide emitted by the burning.
I also see that the lost forest in Bangladesh is converted to scrub, farmland and urban land, so where is the impact of climate change in this scenario?
As the head of a UK research station told me 15 years ago, they have to include the words climate change into any proposal in order to get funding for research.

May 31, 2020 2:48 am

Back to the future, stock up on the fuel while prices are low; this solar minimum isn’t over yet, despite few specks of the SC25 cycle popping out since beginning of the year

May 31, 2020 8:49 am

If their forests are disappearing, thus resulting in more atmospheric CO2, would that not be good for forests everywhere else, as increasing levels of CO2 are well known to have contributed largely to the greening of the planet?

May 31, 2020 11:30 am

“First, the team found that approximately 11% of the forests in Bangladesh have shifted to shrub land, cropland and urban land from 2000-10.”

So what? Are they claiming that this was caused by CO2?

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