The NCEO NC-ODA programme is focussed on a series of generic science issues that are particularly relevant to development challenges: characterisation and forecasting of land surface state including vegetation change and soil moisture; the evolution of forest carbon and characterisation of carbon fluxes arising from deforestation and degradation; the dynamic nature of fires, their emissions into the atmosphere and the development of large-scale air pollution; the development of a cadre of researchers and applications specialists trained in state-of-the-art Earth Observation (EO). We will address specific problems faced by DAC countries: the vulnerability of crop yields in semi-arid regions in Africa to drought, the challenge of protecting and enhancing Kenya’s forest resources to mitigate climate change, the forecast skill necessary to capture hazardous air quality in South-East Asia stemming from open biomass burning, and the current lack of capacity of many African nations to make effective use of satellite EO data. The programme is structured into four WPs. Relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals are: 2 (Zero hunger), 3 (Good health and well-being), 13 (Climate action), 15 (Life on Land), and 17 (Partnership for the goals).

WP 1 will improve crop yield modelling in Ghana and potentially Ethiopia through data assimilation of multiple EO data streams, for example effective leaf area index and soil moisture. The research will yield new knowledge on the value of accurate EO data parameters in a data-model system, to better characterise crop change and increase predictive skill, to examine upscaling from landscape to country scale, and improve soil moisture forecast skill [SGDs 2, 15]. WP 2 will establish a baseline of carbon emissions from deforestation in Kenya, identify different types of deforestation and degradation from synthetic aperture radar, optical and laser ranging (LiDAR) data, and establish areas that are suitable for afforestation to support the Vision 2030 of the Kenyan Government that aims to increase forest cover from 6 to 10 per cent by 2030. The work will establish forest reference emission levels and above-ground carbon stocks. This research is key to understanding carbon cycling estimates in a REDD+ policy context. [SGDs 13, 15]. WP 3 will develop and demonstrate new data sources that can improve forecast accuracy for large-scale air pollution during fire events. Currently, forecast models use estimates of fires that fail to capture the magnitude and variability of dynamic large forest and peatland fires and fires due to agricultural residue burning. The research will improve pollutant emissions estimates from fires, EO-based retrievals of smoke plume aerosols and auto-identification of biomass-burning plumes. We will work with stakeholders in the ASEAN countries to co-develop and demonstrate new systems, characterise improvements and train staff in the interpretation of complex EO data [SDGs 3, 13]. WP 4 will build capacity through international EO-related initiatives, including the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) AfriGEOSS initiative and the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Working Group on Capacity Building & Data Democracy, to improve access to and use of contemporary EO datasets in African nations and other DAC nations. Work will include scoping of UK-related EO projects and experts related to AfriGEOSS identified needs, extension of the training of WP1-3 to wider DAC countries and to strategic capacity building, co-ordinated work with the relevant GEO initiatives of GFOI and GEOGLAM, and support of access to EO data for DAC countries. These actions will also benefit UK national priorities such as the monitoring of projects supported by the GNU partnership (Germany, Norway and UK), which is making US$5 billion available between 2015 and 2020 for REDD+ early movers, and the Biocarbon Fund’s Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL) [SDG 17].

Grant reference
Natural Environment Research Council
Total awarded
£1,923,000 GBP
Start date
1 Jan 2018
2 years 2 months 29 days
End date
30 Mar 2020