Satellite imagery can help with environmental land management – ScienceDaily

Academics at the Center for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Surrey have undertaken research that proves that Earth observation satellite imagery can accurately assess the quality and quantity of certain types of habitat.

This discovery opens cost-effective avenues for monitoring, reporting and verifying land management incentive programs, such as the new Environmental Land Management Program of the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Environmental land management is a crucial part of adaptation to protect communities and natural habitats – which is a goal of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in November.

In March 2021, the UK government announced the program to replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy to support the rural economy while meeting the goals of the 25-year environmental plan and helping meet emission reduction commitments of carbon. The program will use public funds to pay farmers and land managers in England to provide a set of ‘public goods’ that cover clean air, clean and abundant water, thriving plants and wildlife, protection and l ‘environmental risk mitigation, beauty, heritage and engagement, mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

To confirm that their approach has practical application, the University of Surrey team worked with ecologists to test the use of satellite imagery in establishing habitat criteria for five sample species or groups of species in the Surrey Hills Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty, one of the areas in DEFRA’s first round of trials for the Environmental Land Management Program. Two types of butterflies, larks, hazel dormice and dragonflies and damselflies were chosen for the study as they act as bioindicators of a suitable and healthy habitat, both for themselves and in terms of wider ecosystem. They also represent a range of habitat needs such as limestone grasslands, forests, pastures, arable land, hedges and inland waters.

Ecologists from the Surrey Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation advised the research team and helped them gain knowledge about the habitat requirements for each species. The team then used both readily available and very high-resolution Earth observation resources to assess the suitability and connectivity of the species’ general habitat and assign a suitability score. Finally, they used the score and knowledge of local experts to explore the further contribution of the increasingly available Very High Resolution Earth Observation (ORV) data (0.7 to 4 m in this study) to habitat assessment.

The team found that they could effectively use Earth observation data to assess habitats, including through automatic reconnaissance and mapping, which will be critical in managing the government’s new agenda. For example, they could check whether lark nesting sites have not been cut during the breeding season. They also identified ways to use the information from satellite images to identify simple ways to improve land management, for example, areas that could support butterfly populations if specific plant seeds were scattered and areas where special precautions against fertilizer spray drift are needed.

Professor Richard Murphy of the Center for Environment and Sustainability and head of the University’s Space-4-Sustainability initiative under the theme of sustainability research, said:

“Our team and, in particular, the excellent work of Ana Andries, PhD student at NERC SCENARIO Surrey, showed how it is possible to balance the level of detail available from satellite imagery with the level of review. required for an accurate habitat assessment in a sustainable territory. When combined with an in-depth knowledge of the habitat requirements for specific species, Earth observation data is truly valuable, especially at very high resolution, or ORVs. This technology has enormous potential to improve the protection and enhancement of the environment, not only in the Surrey Hills, but, with input from experts, across England, the UK and the world. . “

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Materials provided by University of Surrey. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.

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