The Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) has recently launched a Monsoon Asia Integrated Regional Study (MAIRS) and will share details of the study, as well as outline research needs and knowledge gaps in the understanding of Monsoon Asia, during several special sessions at the ESSP Open Science Conference.
Almost all aspects of societal and economic activities in the Monsoon Asia region are critically dependent on the monsoon circulation system. It has direct impacts on water resources and air quality, and indirectly affects agriculture, industry, health, urban life and ecosystem services. However, intensive and large-scale human activities may begin to change the monsoon system in Asia.
Already this year the monsoon system has brought unusually heavy rains to some regions, resulting in extensive and expensive floods. In other places, such as in southwest China, very late rains made harvesting of crops impossible, while the Chinese province of Sichuan experienced its worst drought in 50 years and Chongqing its worst in around a century. According to a recent study by China Agriculture University, water shortages are considered a growing concern to China as it copes with the challenge of feeding a population that is expected to peak at 1.6 billion by 2030. MAIRS addresses the interaction between humans and the environment in Monsoon Asia in order to support strategies for sustainable development. Key research questions include: Is the Asian monsoon system resilient to this human transformation of land, water and air? Are societies in the region becoming more, or less, vulnerable to changes in the Asian monsoon? What are the likely consequences of changes in the monsoon Asia region on the global climate system? The MAIRS project will approach these questions in an integrated manner, following four research themes: Rapid transformation of land and marine resources in coastal zones. Multiple stresses on ecosystems and biophysical resources in high mountain zones. Vulnerability of ecosystems in semi-arid zones due to changing climate and land use. Changes in resource use and emissions due to rapid urbanization in urban zones.