Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Space sentinels track desertification on Mediterranean shores

19.11.2004


The severe droughts and forest fires of recent years underline Mediterranean Europe’s continuing vulnerability to desertification – 300 000 square kilometres of territory are currently affected, threatening the livelihoods of 16.5 million Europeans. A new satellite-based service is set to provide a continuous monitoring of regions most at risk.



ESA’s DesertWatch project involves the development of a desertification monitoring system for the northern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, in support of responsible regional and national authorities. "Desertification is a common problem across Mediterranean nations, because of circumstances in common: similar historical backgrounds, climatic conditions, land use patterns, cultural characteristics and vegetation types," explained Dr. Mevlut Duzgun of the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forestry, a DesertWatch partner user.

"What we hope to get out of this project is the development of a common, harmonised information system available to all Mediterranean countries affected by desertification processes, making it possible to permanently access the data needed to monitor changes as they occur."


The term ’desertification’ refers not to the spread of existing deserts, but the creation of new ones through the degradation of susceptible arid or dryland ecosystems, which extend over a third of the Earth’s land surface. Degradation is mainly due to human activities such as overfarming or land clearance, although drought also degrades the quality and productivity of soil and vegetation, and the impact of climate change remains an open question.

Mismanagement of land strips nutrients from soil and diminishes vegetation cover. And without plants or trees to bind the soil together, topsoil that has taken centuries to accumulate is blown or washed away, further reducing the biological productivity of the land until finally it becomes useless. The Worldwatch Institute estimates the Earth’s landmasses lose up to 24 thousand million tonnes of topsoil annually.

"In the case of Turkey, our economy is highly dependent on agriculture, so soil is to be considered one of our major natural resources to be efficiently protected so a maximum level of productivity should be sustained," added Duzgun. "The total area affected by soil erosion mainly due to water but also wind is 57.6 million hectares – more than two thirds of the country. And our climate is such that large parts of the country are sensitive to wild fires."

As a densely populated dryland zone, Mediterranean Europe would be vulnerable to desertification anyway, although regular forest fires make its situation worse. Between 600 000 and 800 000 hectares of Mediterranean forest is burnt annually – leaving an area approaching the size of Corsica stripped of vegetation. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 95% of these fires are caused either by negligence or deliberate arson.

The good news is that dryland desertification can be remedied or even reversed, using appropriate land management techniques. Forecasting is needed of areas most at risk, and this is what satellites can provide.

As well as highlighting any relevant land use change, the view from space can reveal increased surface reflectivity, temperature, dryness and dustiness. Infrared sensors can be used to detect vegetation stress from environmental changes.

During the lifetime of DesertWatch, data gathered from multiple spacecraft including ESA’s Envisat will be used to assess desertification trends over time, developing standardised geo-information products to enable cross-border comparisons.

DesertWatch products are also envisaged as a means for countries to fulfil their reporting obligations to the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD), a 191-nation agreement to fight desertification on a global basis.

Partner users for the DesertWatch project come from four Northern Mediterranean nations most affected by desertification. As well as the Turkish Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, they are Italy’s National Committee to Combat Drought and Desertification, the Greek National Committee for Combating Desertification and Portugal’s National Coordinating Body of the Portugal National Action Program on the UNCCD.

These bodies are supplying user requirements to the project, and will also work to validate the DesertWatch information system. Part of ESA’s Data User Element, the 24–month DesertWatch project began in September 2004.

Italy’s Advanced Computer Systems SpA is leading DesertWatch on behalf of ESA. Additional contributors include Spain’s National Research Council – Arid Zones Research Station (EEZA), Italy’s Ente per le Nuove Tecnologie, L’Energia e l’Ambiente in Rome (ENEA) and University of Sassari Desertification Research Group (NRD), the Research Institute for Knowledge Systems in the Netherlands (RIKS) and the Remote Sensing Department of the University of Trier in Germany.

Mariangela D’Acunto | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/export/esaEO/SEMPMCWJD1E_index_0.html
http://www.esa.int

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Cyclic change within magma reservoirs significantly affects the explosivity of volcanic eruptions
30.11.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>