EEO-AGI Scotland Seminar Review : Dr. Graeme Buchanan, RSPB Scotland : 7th Dec

‘Remote Sensing for Conservation’ – Dr Graeme Buchanan (RSPB Scotland)

The longevity of many species that inhabit our world is under threat from anthropogenic effects, such as habitat destruction. To find solutions and help those who are vulnerable, it is essential that we precisely monitor these effects. Remote sensing has proved useful for various applications, and its popularity as a tool to aid conservation action has been ever increasing since the first paper on remote sensing for ecology in 1969. In fact, remote sensing can help fill a gap in conservation monitoring and decrease time needed to monitor, as it was previously carried out on foot.

For a special Christmas event the EEO-AGI and Hutton Club seminar series joined together to introduce Dr Graeme Buchanan from RSPB Scotland who discussed how remote sensing can be used in conservation. He explored this notion with case studies from his new book “Satellite Remote Sensing for Conservation Action: Case Studies from Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems”.

Satellite Remote Sensing for Conservation of East Asia’s Coastal Wetlands

East Asia’s coastal wetlands are areas of great habitat importance for passive waders, such as the spoonbill sandpiper. This species’ population has declined massively over the past few years due to loss of habitat from agriculture and urbanisation. Using Landsat data from the 1990s onwards, a map of mudflats and mudflat loss was produced, which went on to influence conservation action. The tool developed to create these maps will be useful for other study areas.

Lessons Learned from WhaleWatch – Predictions of Whale Migration

High levels of whale mortality are caused from entanglement in fishing kit or collisions with ships. WhaleWatch was developed in order to allow ships to monitor where whales are to reduce the possibility of collisions. ARGOS satellite tag data was used to locate and model krill (the main food source for whales) locations, which would indicate where whales are. The data of whale positions was put online using a user-friendly interface and has subsequently reduced whale collision rates.

Wildfire monitoring with Satellite Remote Sensing to Support Conservation

Fire dependent and fire sensitive ecosystems are found over large areas of Africa, such as in Tanzania and Niger. Data from MODIS was used to investigate what areas were being burned and when. Investment into infrastructure (satellites for Internet access) was required to ensure the data from this study could be made available for those in the affected areas.

Dr Graeme Buchanan rounded off his case studies by exploring common themes and lessons learned from these examples and others in his book. He expressed that collaboration of all stakeholders is key and the importance of data remaining free and accessible for conservation. He explained how better temporal resolution may be favoured over a high spatial resolution for conservation action. The usefulness of remote sensing to aid in conservation monitoring and management is clearly evident, although the ground data to calibrate earth observation data is still a necessity. Remote sensing provides a valuable method for monitoring habitat loss, animal migration and wildfires, among many other conservation applications.

“Satellite Remote Sensing for Conservation Action: Case Studies from Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems” edited by Allison K. Leidner and Graeme M. Buchanan is available now.

Kirsty Hulme, MSc Geographical Information Science

[Next talk – Fri 18th Jan 2019 with Layla Gordon, Research and Innovation Scientist, OSGB/OSLabs – ]

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