Transitional economies in Southeast, East, and North Asia (SENA), including Cambodia, Laos PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, and the Asian part of Russia (Siberia), have experienced liberalization, macroeconomic stabilization, restructuring and privatization, and legal and institutional reforms over the past three decades. These countries constitute a region that is significant in both natural and socioeconomic dimensions. Covering a land area of 25.4 million km2, they had a population of 1.54 billion in 2010 and a GDP of $4.91 trillion in 2012. Coupled with the rapid economic development is the urbanization at various but mostly tenacious speeds, which exert tremendous pressure on social, economic, and environmental sustainability, especially under the increasingly visible climate change. Building upon our previous research on urban systems in the region, rich databases of collaborators, and diverse experience and expertise of team members, we set our objective toward synthesizing the data and knowledge on urban sustainability to the socioeconomic transformation and changing climate in transitional economies in SENA. We propose four specific hypotheses to link key socioeconomic and biophysical drivers, especially the institutional mechanism unique in transitional economies and global climate change, for the spatiotemporal changes of urbanization and urban sustainability in these countries. We are performing three tasks:
Data Integration: We construct a comprehensive database of LCLUC, socioeconomic, and environmental variables for the 17 cities at multiple spatial and temporal scales from a variety of sources. Data gaps are identified and a limited effort is made to collect ground, RS, socioeconomic, and environmental data that are missing, but are critical for Tasks 2 and 3.
Knowledge Synthesis: We first construct quantitative indices for spatial, human, and natural systems of 17 cities. We then perform statistical and modeling analyses to quantify the interactions and feedbacks, thus answering our research questions and to test the hypotheses based on integrated the database, thus generating new knowledge of the co-evolution of LCLUCs, human systems, and natural systems for the urban environments in transitional economies.
Forecast Synthesis: We model and predict the changes of the urban LCLUC, human, and natural systems beyond 2016 with sound scenarios of climate and land cover changes, populations, economic growth, and possible planning and policies. Two workshops have been held in the region to assist us in gathering expert opinions from policymakers and local collaborators on plausible scenarios and to exchange ideas with a larger and broader academic and policy community.
This synthesis will not only provide a solid base for further research and education on urbanization and sustainability in the SENA region through the integrated spatial, socioeconomic, and environmental database, but will also contribute to our knowledge on driving forces from human and natural perspectives for urban LCLUC and ecosystems of other regions, especially on those under the mounting pressure of global change and the unique institutional factors of transitioning economies. The project has direct policy implications for cities in transitional economies as it will assist us moving toward urban sustainability under future climate change and growth conditions.