DRIER-China: Drought Resilience In Ecosystem services and Rural communities in China.

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering

Abstract

Drought is a major hazard in developing countries, especially in Asia and Africa, and in many countries is becoming a growing challenge as demand for water rises and the climate changes. In China, major droughts regularly occur over large areas of the country. These droughts have impacts on water supplies to rural (and urban) communities, on crop growth and on local ecosystems. Ecosystem impacts of drought can then indirectly further influence rural communities, for example through increases in soil erosion or dust storms. The onset of drought can be defined in a number of ways (e.g. by lack of rainfall, impact on river flows, crop failure or lack of water supply for communities). The relationships between these different forms of drought and their impacts on rural communities in China are not fully understood. In addition, improved methods to forecast drought, assess risks and understand often complex impacts on rural communities, as well as assess the risks and benefits of potential solutions, are urgently needed if drought issues are to be tackled effectively and economic, social and environmental impacts are to be reduced.

This project aims to address these challenges, by building an international network of researchers and end-users from across a range of disciplines (including humanities and social sciences) to identify key research gaps and build a research plan for a large integrated research programme to build the resilience of rural communities in China to drought events.

Initial research will examine patterns of drought over the past 30 years, by bringing together weather data, hydrological models, signs of vegetation stress from satellite data and century-long records of impacts on communities and their past responses to disasters, to determine the relationships between drought impacts on crops, ecosystems, communities and the economy. In addition, through engagement with local people and stakeholders, a framework for understanding drought impacts on local communities and for assessing and communicating the risks and benefits of potential solutions (including economic, cultural and ethical risks and benefits) will be developed. Finally, a stakeholder workshop, involving key governmental, industry and non-governmental organisations, such as the UN Development Programme for China, will be held in China, to ensure developed tools and research plans meet end-user needs and to develop routes to ensure uptake of research findings.

The project involves a number of key Chinese partners, including the National Engineering Research Centre for Information Technology in Agriculture (NERCITA) and the National Disaster Reduction Centre of China (NDRCC). NDRCC is a key organisation providing support to government for disaster response in China and the tools and methods developed in the project will be integrated into their existing risk assessment and impact assessment services, to allow improved, evidence-based responses to drought events. With assistance from NERCITA, new methods of predicting drought impacts on crop production and monitoring the impacts of on-going drought events on agriculture will be developed and the project partners will work closely with agricultural service providers in China to ensure such tools benefit Chinese farmers and the agricultural industry. The project will also work with local communities, to enhance their understanding of drought hazards and potential solutions, and of the historical impacts of drought on their region.

In the longer term, the project is expected to lead to a large-scale international research programme to develop a full, integrated risk and impact assessment system for use in disaster management and to develop needs-driven and equitable solutions to build drought resilience in rural communities in China and other developing countries.

Planned Impact

The DRIER-China project will result in a number of outputs with potential benefits for the Chinese economy, society and the environment. Firstly, the project will develop a framework for research under a longer-term international research programme with an aim of developing a fully integrated risk and impact assessment system for drought hazards in China and of developing approaches (including policy changes, land and resource management and technological innovations) to build the resilience of rural communities to drought. Many of these tools and approaches are anticipated to be transferable to other developing countries, ultimately leading to far-reaching societal and economic benefits, such as improved water and food security.
In the shorter term, the project will provide new insights into the drivers of drought in China and the socio-economic and environmental impacts of drought on Chinese rural communities, and will develop new methods to estimate vegetation drought stress from satellite data and to integrate this data with crop models for agricultural risk assessment. A number of immediate impacts of the project are anticipated from these research findings and tools and are described below.

The National Disaster Reduction Center of China (NDRCC) is a key project partner with a leading role in national responses to drought hazards. Improved quantitative approaches to drought forecasting, risk and impact assessment, generated during DRIER-China, will directly increase their capacity to respond to drought disasters, when integrated into existing operational systems. Uptake of such risk assessment tools by other agencies involved in disaster relief, such as NGOs, can help to ensure optimal distribution and use of resources.

Chinese government institutions responsible for agriculture, environment and rural development can benefit from an improved understanding of the characteristics and impacts of drought, to help to inform national policy decisions and mitigation strategies at regional and local scales. The frameworks developed through the project can be adopted by government agencies and other organisations (such as UNDP China) engaged in poverty alleviation, environmental protection and disaster prevention, to assess impacts of both drought and drought resilience measures on rural communities, and to understand socio-economic barriers to implementation. In addition, the project will help to determine the best methods of communicating drought risks and the benefits of potential solutions to rural communities, helping to increase uptake of technological solutions and policy innovations.

Agricultural and Geospatial Service Providers, including SMEs, can benefit from the development of products to improve prediction of drought impacts on agricultural production and provide early detection of crop drought stress, which have significant commercial potential. Local farmers will ultimately benefit from these services and from improved understanding of potential benefits of agri-technology or crop management solutions to drought and agricultural insurers will benefit from a better understanding of risks to crops and rural economies and the ability to quantitatively assess drought impacts over large areas.

Local communities in China will benefit directly from an improved understanding of their local resilience to drought and the efficacy of historical responses, potential risk/benefits of solutions, as well as from an insight into their local history. Wider society can also stand to benefit from an improved understanding of the negative impacts of drought and the importance of evidence-based, community-focussed mitigation.
 
Description The project aimed to develop an international research network and a research framework to address challenges of drought risk and impact assessment in China, bringing together methodologies from the physical and social sciences and humanities, with the aim of providing a new insight into drought risk and impact, based on a case study area in Liaoning, China. An integrated, multi-disciplinary approach was employed, underpinned by a diverse research team, aiming to develop a research framework to address drought challenges, based on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) methods and combining multi-scale hydrological modelling and crop stress monitoring, understanding of ecosystem services and agricultural systems, knowledge of impacts on rural economies and social structures, effective crisis communication and consideration of local community's history and culture. A number of approaches were employed to examine drivers of drought and create complementary time series of drought severity, including analysis of satellite data of groundwater levels, satellite remote sensing of vegetation stress, crop modelling, compiling precipitation records and analysis of historical accounts and records. Indices of drought based on satellite images and hydrological models generally proved successful in identifying low crop yield years.
A systematic literature review has been produced examining the impact of droughts on ecosystem services in China and identifying a number of research gaps, such as the need to establish the impact of future climatic extremes on threatened species and habitats. Interviews have also been conducted by Chinese partners with farmers in local communities in Liaoning Province, with a view to understanding community resilience and coping strategies in response to drought. Analysis of interview responses is currently on-going, following translation.The DRIER-China project, through research visits and a stakeholder workshop and project meeting in Beijing, has led to new and strengthened collaborations between project partners, including non-academic partners, and to further research opportunities. The stakeholder meeting has established a collaboration between Newcastle University and UNDP China on slow onset natural disasters. A PhD studentship at Liverpool University, examining long-term drought variability in eastern China, has resulted from initial work conducted during the project on instrumental and historical drought records in Shenyang, Liaoning Province.
Exploitation Route The majority of impacts are at an early stage, given the capacity building nature of the grant. The research findings will provide a firm foundation for a research framework to build drought resilience in the region and in China / Asia more broadly, leading to substantial potential social and economic impacts. Comparison of satellite data, climate data, hydrological model outputs and historical archive information is expected to lead to improved understanding of the key drivers of drought and of drought onset in the region, defined as a lack of rainfall, by impact on river flows, crop failure or a lack of community water supply. Such understanding can lead to improved methods of drought risk assessment and potentially forecast, which can assist local agencies in risk management and disaster response. In addition, the findings can lead to a better understanding of local community resilience to drought and coping strategies, assisting policy makers and NGOs in responding to drought events. The methods developed to integrate different interdisciplinary approaches to drought risk assessment can be applied in other regions and countries.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description Radar training course for a delegation from China Academy of Space Technology (CAST)
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact In the CAST Radar Training Course, we have demonstrated how to best collect observations with radar satellites (e.g. Sentinel-1A/1B, TanDEM-X) and provided some suggestions to the observational plan of Chinese Gaofen-3 satellite.
 
Description Pump Priming BBSRC Aware to Professor Lynn Frewer and Dr Glyn Jones
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2017 
End 03/2018
 
Description Royal Society GCRF
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2017 
End 05/2019
 
Description Satellite Radar Seminars
Amount £43,200 (GBP)
Organisation China Academy of Space Technology 
Start 11/2017 
End 04/2018
 
Description UK-China Agritech Challenge - REmote sensing and Decision support for Apple tree Precision management, Production and globaL tracEability (RED-APPLE)
Amount £1,281,346 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/S020985/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2019 
End 02/2022
 
Description NDRCC 
Organisation National Disaster Reduction Centre of China
PI Contribution The project proposal was developed in discussion with NDRCC and other partners. A DRIER-China stakeholder meeting and project workshop was organised in Beijing, China in June 2017 attended by NDRCC representatives, to help build the collaboration and ensure engagement.
Collaborator Contribution NDRCC participated in the stakeholder workshop and are preparing a report on drought impacts in north-east China as part of their contribution to the project. They have also assisted with data provision and identification of the study area.
Impact Outputs are still in preparation, with the key collaborative output expected to be a report on drought impacts in north-east China.
Start Year 2016
 
Description NERCITA 
Organisation National Engineering Research Center for Information Technology in Agriculture
PI Contribution The project proposal was developed in discussion with NERCITA and other partners, building on an on-going existing collaboration in the area of precision agriculture. A DRIER-China stakeholder meeting and project workshop was organised in Beijing, China in June 2017 attended and hosted by NERCITA representatives, to help build the collaboration and ensure engagement. A Newcastle University DRIER-China Research Associate also undertook a visit to NERCITA to collaborate on remote sensing data analysis and crop yield modelling as part of the project.
Collaborator Contribution NERCITA hosted the DRIER-China final project meeting and stakeholder workshop in June 2017, held in Beijing, China. They have assisted in data provision and identification of study sites and are collaborating in on-going work to examine relationships between crop yield and climate and on remote sensing data analysis and crop yield modelling.
Impact A DRIER-China stakeholder workshop was held in Beijing, China in June 2017. Preparation of joint research outputs is currently on-going.
Start Year 2016
 
Description UNDP China 
Organisation United Nations (UN)
Department United Nations Development Programme
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The DRIER-China stakeholder meeting, held in Beijing, China in June 2018, established a collaboration between Newcastle University and UNDP China on slow onset natural disasters. The interdisciplinary collaboration, including both physical and social scientists, is ongoing and aims to develop a disaster management cycle for slow-onset natural disasters in China.
Collaborator Contribution A representative of UNDP China attended the DRIER-China stakeholder meeting, held in Beijing, China in June 2018 and is currently collaborating with researchers at Newcastle University to develop a disaster management cycle for slow-onset natural disasters in China.
Impact The collaboration is ongoing and outputs are currently in preparation.
Start Year 2016
 
Description 2017 UK-China Science and Innovation Forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact On 6 Dec 2017, the UK-China Science and Innovation Forum was opened by His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, Duke of York. Liu Yandong, China's Vice-Premier, Wang Zhigang, Vice-Minister of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, and Jo Johnson, UK Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, also attended.

Professor Zhenhong Li from the School of Engineering was invited to showcase two research projects he has been leading:
(i) Remote Sensing: Repeat Pass Interferometry of Chinese Gaofen-3 Satellite
(ii) Precision Agriculture for Family-farms in China (PAFiC)

Professor Li introduced the Chinese Gaofen-3 radar satellite and its potential applications to Vice-Premier Madam Liu.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.ncl.ac.uk/engineering/news/item/professorshowcasesresearchattheroyalsociety.html
 
Description DRIER-China stakeholder meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A 3-day DRIER-China final project meeting and stakeholder workshop was held in Beijing, China in June 2017, hosted by project partner NERCITA. The meeting, attended by 11 core participants (5 UK, 6 Chinese - from UNDP China, NDRCC and NERCITA), as well as a number of local community leaders, provided opportunity for dissemination of research findings from the project and discussion of routes to impact and knowledge gaps. The workshop also allowed discussion of potential future collaborative projects and funding opportunities.Training was also delivered to local participants in interview techniques and project interview questions were refined through discussion with local community leaders.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Mr Jiang Sunan, Minister Counsellor of Science and Technology Section, Chinese Embassy visited Professor Li's Imaging Geodesy Team (14 Mar 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Mr Jiang Sunan, Minister Counsellor of Science and Technology Section, Chinese Embassy and his colleague visited Professor Zhenhong Li's Imaging Geodesy Team at Newcastle University on 14 Mar 2017. Professor Li introduced his main research topics including satellite geodesy, remote sensing and their applications to geohazards (e.g. earthquakes, landslides and city subsidence), infrastructure stability and precision agriculture.

The direct outcome of this event was that Professor Zhenhong Li was invited to deliver presentations at the UK-China Science and Innovation Forum held in the Royal Society London on 6 December 2017 (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/engineering/news/item/professorshowcasesresearchattheroyalsociety.html).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description School talk (Southridge First School, Whitley Bay) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Professor Zhenhong Li was invited to give a talk to 60 students in Southridge First School, Whitley Bay. He introduced satellites and their potential applications (e.g. earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding and agriculture), which sparked questions and discussion afterwards. It appeared that a couple of students decided to become a professor in the future!
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description The UK-China Research and Innovation Impact Festival and Gala Reception in Beijing on 08 November 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The UK-China Research and Innovation Impact Festival and Gala Reception was a 'Science fair'-style exhibition. Nine UK-China joint projects were invited to demonstrate their values and impact. Over 250 people including several (deputy) directors of research councils in China and the UK attended this event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ukri.org/news/impact-and-breadth-of-uk-china-collaboration-on-show-at-china-launch-of-uk...