Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wetlands satellite mapping scheme yielding first results

11.10.2005


Earth’s wetlands are havens for wildlife and vital to the water cycle, but they are also under threat. An ESA-led initiative aims to develop a global wetland information service based on Earth Observation for conservation efforts. The Globwetland project has now entered a new phase, with prototype products being developed based on sites across four continents.



Abundant water makes wetlands the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth, more productive even than tropical rainforests. Unlike rainforests, they are scattered across the world, providing regional flood and erosion prevention, water purification and nutrient recycling.

For much of the 20th Century, wetlands were drained or otherwise degraded. However growing understanding of the vital importance of wetlands led to the signing in 1971 of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Today more than 142930 wetlands have been designated as Wetlands of International Importance, a total area of 125 million hectares. The Convention’s 145 national signatories commit to maintaining the ecological character and are obliged to reporting on the state of listed wetlands they have designated.


Taking place as part of ESA’s Earth Observation Data User Element, the aim of Globwetland is to utilise satellite imagery to provide detailed wide-area views of individual wetlands and their surrounding catchment areas, and how they are changing. This will assist with Ramsar reporting, and also aid national and local conservation efforts – the success of which ultimately comes down to individual wetland managers.

For this reason Globwetland is user-oriented, developing and demonstrating a space-based information service based on the specific requests of local and national users across 50 sites in 21 countries worldwide.

"Our aim is to provide what the wetland managers think is useful," explained Kevin Jones of Vexcel Canada, the company managing Globwetland. "So the first phase was carrying out a detailed survey of user requirements, to know what sites should be acquired, in what style.

"We also need to ensure that products that can be employed locally are also standardised to be of use nationally and internationally.

"Now comes the stage of prototyping products, with specific products being developed based on user requirements. In turn, wetland managers are helping us with ground truthing our products – verifying that what is shown in an image is really there."

Based on the user requirements, Globwetland core products include base maps, land use-land cover (LULC) maps and change detection maps – with historical satellite images being compared with current acquisitions to see what changes have occurred during the last ten years or more. Water cycle regime monitoring maps are also being crated using Envisat and Radarsat radar data to show flood and retreat patterns.

Specialised products available if requested include digital elevation models (DEMs) and biophysical data acquired from multispectral satellite sensors, showing vegetation health based on chlorophyll levels or the sediment contents of wetland water bodies.

Cooperation in Canada

Canada’s Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area is a Ramsar site in British Columbia, whose management team is working with Globwetland on the developing of prototype products.

Its area manager is Brian Stushnoff, who explains: "The Wildlife Area covers 7 000 hectares. It is a pretty wild area, and there are some difficult and waterlogged parts. What we need is an effective, economic means of knowing how the entire area responds to changing water levels.

"Globwetland has presented our team with a collective opportunity to learn more about satellites, what they can and cannot do. Before the project began, we never realised there were so many different types of data available."

Managing a wetland such as the one in Creston Valley is a complex task. To ensure continued high biodiversity, the water levels of its marshes must be periodically drawn down. Such cycles of wet and dryness mimic nature’s droughts, providing oxygen to decompose dead plant material and release nutrients.

In addition, this practice helps stop invasive plant species, such as cattails or reed canary grass, filling open water and pushing out other plants.

"We try to keep up an early stage of succession, and a high level of wetland vegetation can tend to reduce diversity," Stushnoff explained. "We have to rehabilitate areas that get choked with vegetation, drying them up and then ploughing up the ground to get rid of the seed bank that develops over time.

"What satellite multispectral or radar images can do is allow us to map vegetation species, and see where there are concentrations of invasive plants to give us problems. Reed canary grass can stand two to three metres high, so shows up well in a radar image. Radar also shows up the extent of flooded areas well, so we can see how water levels are changing.

"Historical satellite images are useful to see patterns over time – a lot can happen in 30 years, or just a decade. Annual satellite updates will help us into the future."

Classifying wetlands from space

Another advantage of the project is that it should increase our ability to recognise different types of wetlands using Earth Observation, and by extension more accurately classify them within land cover maps.

"Wetlands have been very difficult to identify from space," explained Doug Taylor of Wetlands International, a non-governmental organisation that maintains the Ramsar Sites Database and is a Globwetland partner. "The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment remote sensing group identified this ecosystem as the least well recognised from space.

"Although sensors detecting water are useful, most wetlands are also associated with vegetation, so characteristic wetland surfaces may be anything from forested or floating plants to rice paddies or wet grassland. Building up a catalogue of characteristic signatures for all latitudes has only just started, so the GlobWetland project, by virtue of its wide geographical and temporal reach, is a very useful platform."

Globwetland should mean that, for the first time, wetlands should be capable of being recognised solely through Earth Observation imagery.

In preparation, Wetlands International has worked with the European Environment Agency to develop an extension to their Corine Land Cover classification system, developed for the 300-metre-resolution Corine European land cover map derived from satellites. This extension is based on the globally authoritative ’Ramsar Classification for Wetland Type’ system, covering all known wetland types.

Kampala COP 9 will present progress

The Ninth Meeting of the Conference to the Parties (COP 9) of the Ramsar Convention is due to take place in Kampala, Uganda from 8 November 2005. The meeting will include a presentation from the Globwetland team on the project’s progress so far.

Globwetland involves sites across four continents: North and South America, Europe (including European Russia) and Africa, the countries involved here being Algeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa.

"This will be an important opportunity to demonstrate the innovative work of the GLobWetland project, showing how Earth Observation can be used fruitfully to support wetland managers on the ground in their management planning for Ramsar sites" says Nick Davidson, the Ramsar Convention’s Deputy Secretary General. "Many of us recognise the huge potential for satellite-derived information to help,but for the non-expert it’s much harder to find out just what Earth Observation tools and sources can help us for each site-specific management issue.

"The experience of the Earth Observation analysts and site managers at these 50 Ramsar sites, many of them in Africa, will help all of us involved in the conservation and wise use of wetlands, wherever we are."

Globwetland partners

Vexcel Canada Inc is leading the Globwetland consortium for ESA’s DUE, with subcontractors Remote Sensing Solutions GmbH of Germany and Synoptics Remote Sensing and GIS Applications of the Netherlands. The Netherlands-based Wetlands International organisation is also taking part, both as a sub-contractor and also as a link to the global wetland science community.

Diego Fernandez | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEMT952DU8E_environment_0.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

Im Focus: Artificial Enzymes for Hydrogen Conversion

Scientists from the MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion report in the first issue of the new journal JOULE.

Cell Press has just released the first issue of Joule, a new journal dedicated to sustainable energy research. In this issue James Birrell, Olaf Rüdiger,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

New quantum phenomena in graphene superlattices

19.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A simple additive to improve film quality

19.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>