MSU receives $748K NASA grant to study globalization, urbanization and land use changes in Southeast Asia

MSU Urban & Regional Planning program was selected by NASA to examine globalization, urbanization, land and environment changes in Southeast Asia.

Map of the study area
Study Area: Southeast Asia, its major cities, and bench mark cities of Tokyo, Taipei, and Shanghai in East Asia

Southeast Asia, a vast area of 4.5 million km2 with more than 641 million people, has experienced rapid urbanization, doubling the urbanization ratio from 24% in 1976 to 48% in 2016, with several cities doubling urban built-up land in just two decades (Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Yangon from 1990 to 2010) resulting in severe degradation of the urban environment.

The objective of this $748K research study is to examine how diverse local responses to globalization affected land transitions, particularly urbanization, and urban environmental changes in seven Southeast Asia countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, and 12 case cities.

Globalization has been recognized as one of the most significant driving forces of land transitions in Southeast Asia. It includes flows of commodity (international trade), capital (foreign direct investment (FDI)), money (remittance and overseas aid), and people (rural-urban migration, and international workers, and tourists).

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to conduct the research on this topic with a team of 21 researchers from different institutions in the U.S. and Southeast Asia, together with the core project team,” said Professor Peilei Fan, from the Urban & Regional Planning program.

The interdisciplinary team is led by Peilei Fan, PI, and Professor Joseph Messina, co-PI and dean of the University of Alabama’s College of Arts and Sciences. Additional team members include:

  • Cadi Fung, postdoctoral researcher, from the University of Alabama’s Department of Geography. § Brad Peter, postdoctoral researcher, from the University of Alabama’s Department of Geography.
  • Brad Peter, postdoctoral researcher, from the University of Alabama’s Department of Geography
  • Abhinav Kapoor, graduate assistant, from the MSU Urban & Regional Planning program.
  • Tanni Sarker, graduate assistant, from the MSU Urban & Regional Planning program.

“This project contributes to the knowledge frontier and generates theories and models for the co-evolved relationships among urbanization, economic development, and environment under globalization at multiple spatial scales", said Fan.

There are three specific tasks for this study focused on data processing and hypothesis testing:

1. Urban land transition and its relationship to other land transitions. The team will evaluate urban land changes, including volumetric change, and its coupled relationships with other types of land from 1990s to 2020s, analyzing how globalization leads to hot spots of land transitions.

2. Urban environmental changes (air pollution) patterns, drivers, and impacts. The team will extract urban green space, surface air pollution data of PM2.5 and NO2, and urban heat island and examine how their spatio-temporal patterns have been associated with urban land transformation, traffic congestion, and socio-economic activities, especially those related to local responses to globalization, in Bangkok, Manila, and Jakarta, compared with the benchmark cities of Tokyo, Taipei and Shanghai.

3. Divergent local responses to globalization. The team will model the relationships of globalization, urbanization, and the environmental. They will also develop a driving force-flow-land transition-effect-feedback (DFLEF) model to examine seven types of local responses to globalization.

“This project, funded by the NASA’s Land-Cover and Land Use Change program, integrates remotely sensed measurements with, atmospheric models, and socio-economic analysis and assists Southeast Asia to cope strategically with urban, land and environmental changes under globalization,” said Fan.

For more information about this study, please contact Peilei Fan at

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