Prof. CHEN Shupeng (1920-2008), founder of RS and GIS in China, established LREIS 20 years ago. The picuture shows he (1st right) is at the first meeting of the lab's fifth Steering Committee.
Officially inaugurated in 1987, State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information System (LREIS) is among the first state key laboratories in China and one of world's earliest research teams to develop geographical information system (GIS). Now, some 300 scholars and students are working at the Lab to advance GIS theories and technologies, promote data integration and sharing, and help address major issues like national security, economic development, environment protection as well as regional sustainable development.
Pioneer: one of first and top geo-information laboratories in China
LREIS was established amid the global surge of informatization. With a digital and computer-based method, world geographers made use of remote sensing (RS) technology, combined it with ground observation, and developed analysis and forecasting models to address large-scale geographic issues.
The establishment of the Lab also answered the nation's strategic demand for resource investigation. According to LREIS Director LIU Gaohuan, a major problem with previous investigation is that resource sectors often had different ways of classifying data, making it hard to combine or integrate those data. At this point, digital information is standardized, visualized, accurate, and can be applied repeatedly and conveniently.
The preparation of LREIS started in 1985. Two years later, the Lab was officially approved as one of the first state key laboratories in the country. Now, it is affiliated to the CAS Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research.
Prof. CHEN Shupeng (1920-2008), founder of RS and GIS in China, established LREIS. After setting up China's first cartographic research unit and chairing a project on automated cartography which made China among world leaders in this field, Prof. Chen called for the development of GIS to manage remotely sensed terrestrial and marine data in an integrated manner.
Under his leadership, LREIS launched research programs on early warning of flood threats at Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the evolvement of the Yellow River Delta, the ecology of shelter belt forest in north, northwest and northeast China, the investigation and management of land resources in Beijing and surrounding areas, and national urban planning, etc.
Based on these projects, LREIS fully extended GIS technology to a brand new interdisciplinary science – the geo-information science.
Pacemaker: fruitful research over two decades
According to Prof. Liu, the geo-information science makes use of RS, global positioning systems and network geo-information system to capture and manage terrestrial images and data from space and ground, and to conduct spatio-temporal analyses of human, commodity and information flows.
Today, LREIS is a domestic pacemaker in geo-information science. "We are the 'national squad' of geo-info studies in China," a senior LREIS researcher notes.
LREIS scientists have also developed their own GIS technology system – the SuperMap GIS.
As a big GIS package, SuperMap covers a wide range of products such as Desktop GIS, Component GIS, Service GIS, Mobile GIS, Spatial Database GIS as well as related spatial data generating, processing and managing tools. Since its first market release in 2000, SuperMap has been widely used in government agencies, schools and organizations.
Today, SuperMap Software Co., Ltd. is a Beijing-based leading GIS software company with overseas offices in Tokyo, Japan, and Hong Kong.
Ever since its establishment, LREIS has been funded extensively by the national basic research program, national high-tech research and development program, natural science foundation of China, CAS knowledge innovation program and so on. Painstaking efforts were rewarded with state natural science award, state science and technology progress award, along with multiple awards conferred by the provincial government and ministries.
Much of the Lab's research is closely related to people's daily life. Electronic maps enable you to quickly find your destination. Global positioning system equipped in cars facilitates transportation in big cities. Farmers supervise the growth of their crops using RS data.
Every five years LREIS carries out a national geographic survey to observe major changes in resources and environment, Liu says. For example, they monitor the occupation of farmland, and study if desertification has worsened over the time. From digital marine information system to ecological assessment, LREIS has offered a lot of suggestions and development plans to State policy-makers.
Social factor is also a major concern at LREIS. Prof. WANG Jinfeng once launched a research program on the relationship between birth defects and environment factors. In mountain-locked areas in central China's Shanxi Province, Wang and coworkers collected data on local pollution, defects of the newborn, nutrient structure of native population as well as related social and economic information. Samples of soil, rock, hair and even preserved vegetables were brought back to the Lab for analysis. The team then put all information into a database, and set up mathematical models to study the problem.
At present, LREIS is composed of five major research units, namely a lab on resources and environment mechanism and application, a data center for resources and environmental sciences, a cartology workgroup, a development hub for geo-information industry, as well as an information center for global changes. A LREIS-sponsored data sharing network of earth system science is also in operation.
LREIS is actively involved in international communication and cooperation. The Joint Laboratory for Geo-information Science, for example, is co-sponsored by LREIS, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the CAS Institute of Remote Sensing Applications to promote collaboration between mainland and Hong Kong in the field of geo-information technology and application.
The International Workshop of Geographic Information System (IWGIS, Beijing) is an important academic conference series hosted every four years by LREIS. The 7th IWGIS was successfully held in September, 2007.
Prospect: earth simulation system
According to Prof. Liu, LREIS is pooling research efforts toward one ultimate goal: to develop an earth simulation system. With the system, people will be able to relive the evolving and developing process of all geographic elements on our very planet. It will be even more rewarding, if we look ahead, when it enables human to foretell any possible occurrence or impacts of climate change, disasters and other profound transformations on the earth's surface.
The goal is, without doubt, difficult, in that the building of such a system requires a thorough understanding of the geographic principles of the earth.
Prof. Liu proposes several steps needed for establishing the simulation system. In the first place, researchers have to promote the sharing, integration and analysis of geo-data. With data and parameters they construct mathematical models, and seek visualized expression of space data. Last but not least, numerous modules will be integrated into an entire simulation system.