New research network to address critical environmental challenges in India

Posted by ap507 at Mar 02, 2017 12:25 PM |
University of Leicester researchers to assess impact of climate and greenhouse gas emissions on agriculture in the Indo-Gangetic Plain

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 2 March 2017

Image of live vegetation on the Earth surface over India available here (caption below):

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.


Notes to editors:

For more information contact:

Dr Hartmut Boesch

Dr Harjinder Sembhi

Earth Observation Science GHG group

Professor Sachicha Tripathi - IIT –Kanpur

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.

About the National Centre for Earth Observation

The National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) is a distributed centre with over 80 scientists from UK institutions, led by Professor John Remedios at the University of Leicester. It provides NERC with national capability in Earth observation science and incorporates world-class capabilities in interpretive Earth observation to meet the needs of society through long-term core science and translation of knowledge and environmental data for government and business.

NCEO has world-class capabilities in processing and analysing the vast quantities of data generated by satellites, aircraft and ground-based instruments to monitor and understand global and regional environmental change.

For more information contact

About the Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation

This new Institute brings together all the research work within the University associated with Space (including astronomy and planetary science) and Earth Observation, which is spread across a number of Departments within the College of Science and Engineering: Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geography, Geology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The focus will be on Space/EO missions and instruments, Space & EO data and innovation. Expected outcomes will bring science leadership (mission scientists), alongside Engineering capability, and develop expertise on data analysis, data exploitation and leading technology that can be applied both within Space Research and outside in other areas e.g. medical devices and diagnosis (already underway).

Space was identified by the last Government as one of the eight great technologies and is seen as cross-cutting enabler of growth. The Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS) study in 2010 identified Space as a growth market with the target of £40 billion by 2030, 10% of world market. This growth needs to be underwritten by research. Having an integrated Space and Earth Observation Institute is timely as government actions continue to implement the IGS.

The University of Leicester has a long and distinguished record of discovery in space science. Every year since 1967 has seen a Leicester-built instrument operating in space. We hold, and have held, vital roles in many space missions for space agencies including NASA, European Space Agency, UK Space Agency, ISRO (India) and JAXA (Japan), covering astronomical, planetary and Earth observation science missions. These include NASA/ESA’s James Webb Space Telescope, ESA’s Bepi-Colombo mission, and ESA’s and EUMETSAT’s Meteosat Second Generation missions.

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