Land use is an important driver of global environmental change, but we still don’t know exactly how the land has been changing—or why. As a first step, we need to document the world’s current land use practices and estimate how these patterns have changed throughout history.
While landscapes are now routinely monitored from space, satellite images can tell us only so much. To describe the “on the ground” practices of agriculture, forestry and urban expansion, we must also use ground-based data on fertilizer use, irrigation, crop selection and more. U of M scientists are partnering with colleagues at McGill University to develop pioneering techniques for combining satellite- and ground-based information on land use at the global scale.
Ultimately, the GLI researchers aim to build new datasets of croplands, pastures, forests and urban lands—including new data on productivity, land use practices and land degradation—around the world. The research team is paying particular attention to the Amazon Basin and the United States due to the regions’ global relevance.
Note: The current datasets of the Global Landscapes Initiative were developed in collaboration with McGill University and the University of Wisconsin.