All posts by Karl Donert

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The importance of landscape stewardship

Landscapes are a a heterogeneous pattern of natural and human sites supporting natural and social processes. In europe, landscapes are also a serious concern for many members of the public, as the campaigns around many land-use conflicts, for example around mining, quarries, water, construction or renewable energies show.wilderness

Landscape stewardship is a place-based concept considered to be the active shaping of pathways of social and ecological change for the benefits of ecosystems and society. It combines public participation and values into environmental governance. Landscape stewardship is thus based on the actions of people, related to their appreciation of the landscape values that are perceived as crucial. Landscape stewardship implies an interest in monitoring and actively maintaining and developing the cultural ecosystem services of a particular landscape region and includes actions such as such as nature conservation, agricultural and forestry practice, or cultural heritage. Land managers tend to be involved in landscape stewardship, with some focusing more on environmental, others on production.

To meet the need of establishing or enhancing the functionality of green infrastructures, the integrated analysis of 16 pan-European case study landscapes provides insights on current trends, challenges and opportunities for strengthening social capital among rural landscape stakeholders. Read the European Commission Science for Environment briefing.

Rural landscape stewardship must be an inclusive societal process based on collaborative governance. Horizon scanning was carried out to identify current knowledge and trends regarding the factors that can underpin this. The study emphasises a need for more regionally and culturally adapted approaches to landscape stewardship in Europe.

For Europe, it is important that rural development policies foster landscape stewardship through tailoring policy targets to the varied and specific land-use systems and their landscape attributes. A big challenge for the future, is the design and implementation of rural development policies will be to realign such features with the need for administrative simplification of funding schemes. Read more about landscape stewardship

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First GEOLAND Project Newsletter Published

Partners in the GEOLAND Project have published their first newsletter. GEOLAND focuses on Digital Educational Geoinformatic Methodologies for Monitoring Landscape. The newsletter contains stories about  the presentation of the GEOLAND project in the Technology Forum of Thessaloniki (Greece), the Manifesto on the future of European landscape, introducing the NATURA 2000 sites, the first project meeting in Crete and the use of GIS in schools in Bulgaria.

Read and subscribe to the newsletter

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GIS education for schools – focus on Bulgaria

GIS has undertaken a long road of development and its importance has been recognised in many areas, especially in education. Nowadays GIS tools are both accessible and affordable. So, if you are a teacher, mentor or trainer interested in teaching GIS in your school or university and to your students, there is some really cool news here to share with you.

ESRI Europe has launched a program called “GIS in School”, which provides a free GIS software for schools, which is designed for teachers who want to provide interactive tools to support the teaching and learning processes therein. As part of the program, teachers will get access to the ArcGIS Online platform, which offers its own secure environment with a free personalized account with a username and password for each teacher and for each student. In addition, you could also get access to Story Maps and other cool tools such as ArcGIS Online where a wide variety of tools and templates can be utilized to visualize data, create maps, perform analyses, and answer complex geographic questions with students.Bulgarian GIS in schools image

The program also offers support in developing, preparing and conducting GIS lessons, including “first steps” resources for beginners. Having said that, schools can get additional help via “GeoMentor”- a volunteer program in which professionals in the field of geospatial systems and technologies help teachers in Bulgarian schools to use the full potential of GIS technology in the classroom.

The “GIS in Schools” program is open on an all-year-round basis for all Bulgarian schools. Every Bulgarian school (state, municipal or private) included in the register of institutions in the secondary education system of the Ministry of Education and Science has the right to participate in the program. Any teacher, principal or administrative assistant from the respective school can apply for free participation in the program. Currently, there are 343 schools, 1100 teachers and 10 000+ students involved in the program in Bulgaria. Find out more

Hooked already? Well, why not go ahead and learn more about the “GIS in School” program and take advantage of this wonderful opportunity for your own school.

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Promoting the GEOLAND Project

During the first six months of its implementations, the GEOLAND project was presented and discussed in a number of relevant conferences and events.

In an effort to raise awareness of participants from various business and scientificgeoland dissemination picture disciplines, Atlantis Engineering SA promoted the GEOLAND project in Technology Forum.
This annual event takes place in Thessaloniki (Greece) in order to share knowledge and build collaborations between Industries, Research Centres and Academia

The main topic of the event was the development of innovative products and services, such as ICT applications in education, to be achieved through the combination of knowledge and new technological tools.
More info on the Forum

In September 2021, the GEOLAND project was presented at TIF Helexpo 85th Thessaloniki International Fair, the greatest exhibition event in Greece.

Institute for Mediterranean Studies – FORTH and Dr. Dimitris Alexakis had the chance to present the aims and the goals of the project to numerous visitors of the exhibition from Greece and abroad.
More info on the conference

In March, the new project was introduced at the Annual Conference and meeting of the European Association of Geographers. The event was held online due to pandemic situation . EUROGEO 2021 had the theme “Sustainable Development Goals for all”.  More than 100 presentations were given by participants from 47 countries.
More details about this conference

In June 2021, the GEOLAND project partner Atlantis Engineering SA took part in the EU Science & Innovation days event where the project was mentioned as part of an interesting interaction with policymakers, researchers, entrepreneurs and citizens . Collaboration, Research and Innovation were at the forefront in order to explore ways to recover from the pandemic.
More info on the Science and Innovation days


Natura 2000 and Cultural Heritage

NATURA 2000 network is a European ecological network of sites which are home todolina image significant natural habitats and species at a European level. It is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world and its aim is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats. Visit the Natura 2000 Web site

However, there has also been the acknowledgement of the links between the natural and built cultural heritage. As a result, a number of case studies were conducted in order to point out the successful integrated management of natural and cultural heritage at Natura 2000 sites. Moreover, it has become obvious that these links need to strengthen and explore common threats and challenges as well as opportunities for joint initiatives.

Subscribe to Natura 2000 newsletter to stay up-to-date on relevant events and initiatives.

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Remote sensing and forest landscapes

Landscape surface change can provide important information to land management organisations and conservationists, relating to environmental impacts of various types of land uses and landscape patterns, including forest landscapes.

In general, in landscape research and planning, the most commonly used remote sensing datasets are aerial and satellite images. High resolution Remote Sensing has the potential to Improve landscape monitoring and research.

Remote sensing capabilities have dramatically improved in recent years, in terms of their spatial, spectral, and temporal resolutions. Airborne imaging has also improved offering very high spatial resolutions and hyper-spectral capabilities. It has thus become a very important tool to help map, and monitor the earth surface land uses.Sentinel image Italy

Data has been made increasingly available through rom state-of-the-art European initiatives like the Copernicus Open Access initiative and the processing capabilities such as Sentinel Hub..In parallel there have been signifiant breakthroughs in Cloud Computing, machine learning, data processing and software engineering which have made Earth observation data applicable to landscape monitoring as they offer powerful capabilities to assess landscape changes at different scales and investigate environmental relationships.

Forest monitoring is one such area that has benefited from improving Earth observation systems. Understanding ecological processes at these scales is key to many critical issues in forest planning, conservation and environmental design. Rigorous and innovative strategies are being applied for analysing remote sensing data and linking with other ground-based and non-spatial information.

European Union agencies and member states need to have access to the best-possible data, from multiple (public and private) data sources to enable the state of Europe’s forests to be assessed and its overall biodiversity researched. With the implementation of the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy and the EU Forest Strategy, it can be argued that landscape monitoring education as devised by the GEOLAND Project has never been so important.

Find out more 

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The Council of Europe’s Landscape Convention is 21 years old.

The European Landscape Convention was the first international treaty on sustainable development based on the relationship between the needs of society, economic activity, the environment and culture. Its purpose has been to promote and encourage the protection of landscape, through sustainable management and the planning of European landscapes.landscape convention logo

The Convention established an integrated landscape perspective for a more sustainable relationship between environment and society. It recognises the importance of all landscapes, and not just those of exceptional beauty, as having a crucial bearing on quality of life. It applies to all types of  rural, urban and peri-urban areas, including land, inland water and marine areas. It relates to those of outstanding beauty as well as degraded landscapes.

In the context of changing issues around climate change, food and energy security, wellbeing, public health (e.g., pandemics) and biodiversity loss protecting landscape is now more central in societal and political agendas. So discussion and debate has turned to the Future of the European Landscape and its governance, protection, planning and management of European landscapes. A Manifesto recommending policy support actions and measures for landscape has been developed by UNISCAPE, the European Network of Universities for the implementation of the European Landscape Convention, and signed by GeoLand project partner EUROGEO.

Download the UNISCAPE Landscape Manifesto

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Cumbre Vieja lava flows, Palma

Remote sensing data is increasingly being used to monitor and assess active volcaniclava image processes and their risk to life and landscape. Remote sensing can provide a number of different observation and measurement opportunities to examine the dynamics and impacts of volcanic activity by using ultraviolet (UV), visible (VIS), infrared (IR), and microwave sensors. combine with GIS significant analytical power can be harnessed to better understand the situation.

Cumbre Vieja is volcano located on the island of La Palma, which is part of the Spanish Canary Islands and lies west of Tenerife. Natura 2000 protects 51% of the total surface of the island. The volcano is active for the first time in last 50 years and its eruptive activity began on Sunday, September 19. Since then lava has destroyed and engulfed over 600 buildings and caused extensive damage to agricultural crops and banana plantations, which are inside of plastic greenhouses that burn on contact with lava and release toxic substances into the atmosphere. 

A crack opened in the Cumbre Vieja volcano on 19 September, ash and lava were thrown into the air. Lava then flowed down the mountain and through villages engulfing everything in its path. By 28 September, a 6-km lava flow had been created, which has now reached the ocean on the island’s west coast. Clouds of white steam were reported where the red-hot lava hit the water in the Playa Nueva area.

The eruption has so far driven almost 7,000 people from their homes. Flights from the local airport were interrupted due to the ashes scattered in the air. The lava flow arrived in the coast of Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday night. Experts have previously warned that when hot lava with a temperature of about 1000 degrees Celsius contacts with salty seawater it will lead to creation of toxic emissions. Using Copernicus and Landsat satellite services, higher education students can track the changes on the landscape produced by lava flows.

The following links provide up-to-date data and information about the lava eruption of Cumbre Vieja.



GEOLAND Project meeting, Rethymno, Crete

Members of the GEOLAND Project team met in the town of Rethymno, Crete 15-18th September 2021. Due to Covid restrictions the meeting was hybrid with some partners participating online and others able to visit the coordinating institution the research centre IMS Forth.rethymno meeting photo


The project focused on administrative and practical actions to deliver the key outputs of GEOLAND and specifically:

1 an educational handbook for monitoring European Landscape

2 a training course via a Web-based GIS platform

3 policy outreach for higher education students related to the European Landscape Convention (ELC) and

4 an online gallery of student work, and

5 a Digital Readiness Tool, DERT, for the assessment of the digital readiness of higher education students and courses.

On the first day of the meeting the project partners focussed on the purpose and content of the GEOLAND handbook and its structure and approach. On the second day the GEOLAND platform purpose and its developments were discussed and the approach agreed and issues addressed. The role of open data from students and the activities related to survey gathering and citizen science  were raised.

After the conclusion of the meeting a cultural visit took place, with a visit to the Monastery at Arkadi and a hike through a gorge identified as an area of outstanding landscape value.

Arkadi Monastery

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Introducing Natura 2000 Sites

Natura 2000 sites are specifically designated to protect core areas for a sub-set of species or habitat types listed in the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.

Natura 2000 are considered of European importance because these species are endangered, vulnerable, rare, endemic or else they present outstanding examples of typical characteristics of one or more of Europe’s nine biogeographical regions.

There are around 2000 species and 230 habitat types for which core sites need to be designated as Natura 2000 sites. The aim is to ensure the long-term survival of protected species and habitats.

The sites are selected and proposed by European Member States. The European Environment Agency (EEA) then assists the European Commission in analysing the proposals and in their evaluation concerning their contribution to the conservation status of each habitat type and species at the biogeographical level.

Once the sites proposed under the Habitats Directive are considered sufficient, the lists of sites are adopted by the Commission and the Member States must establish them as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) as soon as possible and within six years at most.

The Natura 2000 network (source: European Environment Agency (EEA))

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