Many biologists, ecologists, and conservationists are interested in the possibilities that remote sensing offers for their daily work and study site analyses as well as for the assessment of biodiversity. However, due to differing technical backgrounds and languages, cross-sectorial communication between this group and remote-sensing scientists is often hampered. Hardly any really comprehensive studies exist that are directed towards the conservation community and provide a solid overview of available Earth observation sensors and their different characteristics. This article presents, categorizes, and discusses what spaceborne remote sensing has contributed to the study of animal and vegetation biodiversity, which different types of variables of value for the biodiversity community can be derived from remote-sensing data, and which types of spaceborne sensor data are available for which time spans, and at which spatial and temporal resolution. We categorize all current and important past sensors with respect to application fields relevant for biologists, ecologists, and conservationists. Furthermore, sensor gaps and current challenges for Earth observation with respect to data access and provision are presented.
Abstract:We present an earth observation based approach to detect aquaculture ponds in coastal areas with dense time series of high spatial resolution Sentinel-1 SAR data. Aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing animal food production sectors worldwide, contributes more than half of the total volume of aquatic foods in human consumption, and offers a great potential for global food security. The key advantages of SAR instruments for aquaculture mapping are their all-weather, day and night imaging capabilities which apply particularly to cloud-prone coastal regions. The different backscatter responses of the pond components (dikes and enclosed water surface) and aquaculture's distinct rectangular structure allow for separation of aquaculture areas from other natural water bodies. We analyzed the large volume of free and open Sentinel-1 data to derive and map aquaculture pond objects for four study sites covering major river deltas in China and Vietnam. SAR image data were processed to obtain temporally smoothed time series. Terrain information derived from DEM data and accurate coastline data were utilized to identify and mask potential aquaculture areas. An open source segmentation algorithm supported the extraction of aquaculture ponds based on backscatter intensity, size and shape features. We were able to efficiently map aquaculture ponds in coastal areas with an overall accuracy of 0.83 for the four study sites. The approach presented is easily transferable in time and space, and thus holds the potential for continental and global mapping.
Rice is the most important food crop in Asia and rice exports can significantly contribute to a country's GDP. Vietnam is the third largest exporter and fifth largest producer of rice, the majority of which is grown in the Mekong Delta. The cultivation of rice plants is important, not only in the context of food security, but also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, provides man-made wetlands as an ecosystem, sustains smallholders in Asia and influences water resource planning and runoff water management. Rice growth can be monitored with Synthethic Aperture Radar (SAR) time series due to the agronomic flooding followed by rapid biomass increase affecting the backscatter signal. With the advent of Sentinel-1 a wealth of free and open SAR data is available to monitor rice on regional or larger scales and limited data availability should not be an issue from 2015 onwards. We used Sentinel-1 SAR time series to estimate rice production in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, for three rice seasons centered on the year 2015. Rice production for each growing season was estimated by first classifying paddy rice area using superpixel segmentation and a phenology based decision tree, followed by yield estimation using random forest regression models trained on in-situ yield data collected by surveying 357 rice farms. The estimated rice production for the three rice growing seasons 2015 correlates well with data at the district level collected from the province statistics offices with R 2 s of 0.93 for the Winter-Spring, 0.86 for the Summer-Autumn and 0.87 for the Autumn-Winter season.
Rice is the single most important crop for food security in Asia. Knowledge about the distribution of rice fields is also relevant in the context of greenhouse relevant methane emissions, disease transmission and water resource management. Copernicus Sentinel-1 provides the first openly available archive of C-band SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) data at high spatial and temporal resolution. We developed one of the first methods that shows the potential of this data for accurate and timely mapping of rice growing areas. We used superpixel segmentation to create spatially averaged backscatter time-series, which are robust to speckle and reduce the amount of data to process. This method has been applied to six study sites in different rice growing regions of the world and achieved an average overall accuracy of 0.83.
This study examines the potential of open geodata sets and multitemporal Landsat satellite data as the basis for the automated generation of land use and land cover (LU/LC) information at large scales. In total, six openly available pan-European geodata sets, i.e., CORINE, Natura 2000, Riparian Zones, Urban Atlas, OpenStreetMap, and LUCAS in combination with about 1500 Landsat-7/8 scenes were used to generate land use and land cover information for three large-scale focus regions in Europe using the TimeTools processing framework. This fully automated preprocessing chain integrates data acquisition, radiometric, atmospheric and topographic correction, spectral–temporal feature extraction, as well as supervised classification based on a random forest classifier. In addition to the evaluation of the six different geodata sets and their combinations for automated training data generation, aspects such as spatial sampling strategies, inter and intraclass homogeneity of training data, as well as the effects of additional features, such as topography and texture metrics are evaluated. In particular, the CORINE data set showed, with up to 70% overall accuracy, high potential as a source for deriving dominant LU/LC information with minimal manual effort. The intraclass homogeneity within the training data set was of central relevance for improving the quality of the results. The high potential of the proposed approach was corroborated through a comparison with two similar LU/LC data sets, i.e., GlobeLand30 and the Copernicus High Resolution Layers. While similar accuracy levels could be observed for the latter, for the former, accuracy was considerable lower by about 12–24%.
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