Assessing land degradation and environmental conditions

Satellite Earth Observation is a powerful technique for continuously assessing the status and changes of environmental conditions and ecosystem functions on a wide range of spatial and temporal scale. It provides long-term global data and can rapidly reveal where change has happened in a consistent and repeatable manner.

Land status indicators

Several EO derived products (at different spatial scales, from regional to local) can jointly provide indication of a land status as effective tools for proper land use planning and natural resources management. Land use/land cover maps have become a standard service that provide information about basic land use types, major agricultural surface types, conservation areas, settlements, infrastructure, primary roads, bare soil, water bodies, rivers, wetlands following standard classification schemes according to CORINE or FAO LCCS. Combined with information such as climate variables, soil moisture, elevation and terrain slope or population density to better understand the factors contributing to changes in land cover and vegetation productivity and finally ecosystem function. 

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Land degradation assessment

EO data provide synoptic, continuous and homogeneous views to monitor land degradation: from mapping land degradation drivers such as for instance land use and land use change, to assessing actual land degradation status, to identifying areas with higher susceptibility and land degradation. The service makes use of different resolution data in order to map land use and its changes at different scales to connect the regional dimension with national and local processes.
Land degradation conditions can be measured by a change in net primary productivity (NPP), whose EO proxies are vegetation indexes proportional to vegetation density, like the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). A Land Degradation Index can be obtained from a ratio of the NPP proxy (NDVI) to climate data (temperatures and precipitation) by exploiting a model (e.g. RUE – Rain Use Efficiency). Finally, identification of areas more prone to land degradation (Indicator of susceptibility to land degradation) takes into account soil degradation, land cover changes and climate dynamics over time.

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Land degradation monitoring

Satellite Earth Observation (EO) allows for a regular inventory of land degradation on a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. It is a cost-effective method offering up-to-date global data that rapidly reveals where change has happened in a consistent and repeatable manner. 

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Soil erosion mapping 

The use of satellite Earth Observation (EO) for the identification and assessment of the extent and severity of water related soil erosion has gained prominence in recent years as it can be used to establish baselines, to track change over time, and to monitor soil erosion mitigation measures.

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