Category Archives: remote sensing

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Data acquisition for landscape monitoring and assessment

Landscape monitoring and assessment involves many different disciplines from the ecological to the social and cultural.Copernicus web site

Innovative methods for data acquisition on landscape and land management have been established due to significant advances in remote sensing and geospatial information science, for example from the EU Copernicus programme.

These include sensor data acquisition, cloud computing and rapid high quality image processing capabilities using tools such as uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs or ‘drones’), satellite and airborne-based sensors, as well as Lidar with high spatial, spectral, radiometric and temporal resolutions.

Automatic image orientation, surface reconstruction, scene analysis, change detection, classification and automatic feature extraction with the help of artificial intelligence, spatial statistics and machine learning are also being developed for use with the management of land developments and land use planning.olive trees photo

EU satellites reveal how bio-fertiliser can protect the olive groves of southern Italy

The bacterium Xylella fastidiosa (Xfp) has attacked olive trees in Italy since 2013, with severe impacts. Researchers have used Sentinel-2 satellite data to show that bio-fertiliser is proving effective in restoring the agro-ecosystem where since 2013 the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa (Xfp) has attacked olive trees in Italy,

Sentinel-2 data is part of the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation programme, which monitors land and marine environments, atmosphere, climate change, emergency response and security to support EU policy. Find out more 

Non-native species assessment 

Remote sensing can help monitor the colonisation of natural habitats by non-native species. These cause substantial ecological and economic damage. Research in Spain suggests monitoring and response efforts need to be prioritised as the removal of established alien species populations is costly and rarely successful.

The EU’s Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Regulation includes measures to manage established invasive alien species and to reduce the number of Red List species that they threaten by 50% by 2030. Find out more

Using satellite remote sensing to monitor biodiversity richnessforest photo

The presence and abundance of European aspen is a useful indicator of boreal forest biodiversity. The species richness and community composition of epiphytic lichens provide information about the influencing factors in their environment (humidity, tree density and age, light availability and more).

However, intensive forestry practices are causing aspen populations to decline, leading to a subsequent loss of lichen habitat. Find out more

The use of remote sensing methods is increasingly being used to reliably detect patterns and trends in biodiversity, with ‘light detection and ranging’ (LiDAR) and hyperspectral imaging to explore diversity in habitats, plant species and plant characteristics.

Remote sensing was more effective at predicting lichen communities than traditional field methods characterising the suitability of individual trees for lichen growth in Europe’s protected areas and to provide a more efficient way to map possible biodiversity hotspots. Natura 2000 sites map


Monitoring landscapes is a crucial action especially in times when the impacts of climate change are so significant.

There is a need for expertise in landscape monitoring which is derived from a range of disciplines including geology, ecology, environment, geography, economics, sociology, psychology and history.

These interconnections should be considered essential for monitoring the progress towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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NATURA 2000 site burnt in Greece

Huge environmental destruction took place in August 2023 due to forest fires which ravaged many parts of Greece,  

The National Park of Dadia – Lefkimi – Soufli is located in northern Greece, was on fire for 15 consecutive days leading to the loss of a valuable part of its natural wealth. In total almost 58% of the protected area was burned down.

Sadly, a year earlier the area had already been on fire burning for more than a week.

The National Park of Dadia – Lefkimi – Soufli was one of the first areas in Greece to be established with protected status; being declared as a protected area in 1980 and as a national park in 2006.

The National Park is home to a great number of rare species of birds. It is notable that 3 out of 4 vulture species of Europe are found there; Aegypius monachus, Neophron percnopterus and Gyps fulvus.

The area is in the crossroads of Asia, Europe and Africa close to the migration route of many bird species, thus gaining a unique geographical place on a national level.

satellite imageThe park stretches to 42.800ha and 360-400 plant species, 104 butterfly species, 12-13 amphibia species, 29 reptile species and 60-65 mammal species have also been recorded.

What is more, the particularly aesthetic landscapes with rock formations, streams and rivers, the endemic plants and the points of geological interest of the area are of high ecological value.

Scientists express fears that the forest has been destroyed forever and it will not be possible to return it to its former state as some of the trees need 100-150 years to grow.

It is also claimed that climate change played a major role in the fierocity of the fires, since summers have been getting drier and the drought is likely to have contributed to the increasing numbers of fires.

Satellite image credentials: Copernicus EMS Twitter

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Landscape Policies : Bulgarian Case Study

The European Landscape Convention seeks to encourage citizens and public authoritieslandscape convention logo to implement policies and measures at local, regional, national and international level for protecting, managing and planning landscapes throughout Europe.

GEOLAND aims to provide resources for to Higher Education students to study how European Landscape Convention (ELC) is implemented and adopted in different EU countries.

This case study examines the national, regional and local issues concerning landscape policy in Bulgaria.

Find out more about the Bulgarian Landscape Award of the Council of Europe

A report on European policy has been produced. Find out about the European Policy Report

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Piloting the landscape app and GIS platform in Zaragossa, Spain

In October 2022 a two-day Transnational Partner Meeting was held in Zaragoza, Spain. Participants spent one day in meetings, discussing the progress of the project with special attention to testing a landscape survey app. geoland-app

The aim of the landscape survey app is to enable the nature of the landscape to be evaluated in situ by students and by the general public. Its use proved to be very straightforward. By opening the app, GPS locations could be saved, together with responses to a short landscape survey and digital photographs of the location could be gathered and shared.

This app thus permits data gathering of landscape character assessment (LCA) results in the field, linked to a GIS platform where the data gathered is presented.platform-satellite

Landscape character assessment is the process of identifying and describing the variation in character of the landscape.

This helps identify and explain the unique combination of elements and features that make landscapes distinctive.

The character, types and areas can be described and mapped to  show how the landscape is perceived, experienced and valued by people. It also allows changes in landscape to be  monitored, for example due to climate change or human impact, and policies to protect distinctive areas to be put in place.

Either follow the link or scan the QR code to visit the Landscape Character Assessment online survey app to add your own data to the GIS platform..QR for Survey 123

On the second day, a field visit to a NATURA 2000 site close to Zaragossa was organised in order to beta test the app and platform. Find out more about Natura 2000 in Aragon

.During the visit five different important locations of landscape value were visited

The first location was a local landfill which serves almost 800.000 habitants of the Zaragoza region for waste deposits. On the other hand it offers a food source for numerous animals and birds, such as vultures, storks and seagulls. The landfill is located on the border of the NATURA 2000 protected area.

The visit continued to the Saltlake of Mediana (La Salada de Mediana) which has huge ecological, historical and scientific value because of the salt extraction activity during the past centuries.

Codo municipality was the next stop, in particular in ornithological reservation El Planerón, where the guide form SEO BirdLife organisation, responsible for the reservation, explained the project, the relationships with other agents in the landscape management and presented to the participants some results of the work done in the reservation.

Then the group stopped in Fuendetodos, birthplace of Francisco Goya, great Spanish painter, where windmill parks with massive energy potential have been installed. The purpose was to evaluate their impact on the landscape and compare it with the benefits that it can bring.

Finally, the viewpoint on Las Planas, next to Cadrete, was visited. From this spot, participants could appreciate the views over the Ebro river depression, the plateau, Zaragoza city, the dry steppe landscape, wind parks and the Moncayo massive in the background.

Explore the Storymap to see the location and results of the field visit

The field visit confirmed the  survey app and GIS platform developed for landscape evaluation showed great functionality and produced very relevant results, so in following months it will be used in different European locations with students and the public.

Try out the GEOLAND survey app  –  Visit the GIS platform

Contact the project of you wish to be involved or find out more.

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Visualising Climate And Landscape

earthmap imageEarth Map ( is an innovative and free application developed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. It was designed in the framework of the partnership between the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and Google. Earth map facilitates the visualisation, processing, and analysis of land and climate data.

It was created to support countries, research institutes and even farmers with internet access to monitor their land in an easy, integrated and multi-temporal manner.

Earth Map allows everyone to visualise, process and analyse satellite imagery and global datasets on climate, vegetation, fires, biodiversity, geo-social and other topics.

Earth Map’s data is divided into thematic segments – Climate, Geosocial, Vegetation, Land Degradation Neutrality, Water, Satellite images, Land maps, Forestry, Fire, Geophysical, Soil and Biodiversity.

The data allows users to visualise different layers of information to create maps and to generate statistics to describe the areas of interest. These layers include the European Space Agency’s Climate Change Initiative Land Cover, the Copernicus ECMWF Temperature and Precipitation ERA5 data, the Global Forest Change tree cover loss, Nightlights.

Earth Map allows users to access and display information from multiple time periods. It  thereby gives  both a temporal (accessing time series data) and a spatial (visualising places) perspective to their areas of interest.

Users need no prior knowledge of remote sensing or Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

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Find out moreVisit Earth Map

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Partner meeting tests GEOLAND app

geoland meeting During two days of October 2022, the GEOLAND Transnational Partner Meeting was held in Zaragoza, Spain. All the participants spent one whole day meeting, discussing the latest progress of the project with special attention on the mapping app developed by University of Ghent.

This app permits data gathering in the field and its aim is to allow the landscape to be evaluated in situ by students or even by the public. The use is very simple, everyone just has to open the app, save the GPS location, respond to a short survey and make a photo, which completes the collected information.

Next day, a field visit and app beta testing was scheduled. Five places with important landscape value were visited.

The app developed for the landscape evaluation was shown to present great functionality and very relevant results, so in following months it will be used with students and the general public.

Explore the Storymap to find out more.



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GEOLAND to be presented at the United Nations

UNGGIM logoMembers of the European Association of Geographers, Karl Donert, Rafael de Miguel (UNIZAR) and Luc Zwartjes (University of Ghent) will participate and share experiences and expertise about the GEOLAND Project at the United Nations during the Twelfth Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) in New York in August 2022.

meeting-imageThe Committee of Experts UN-GGIM was established as the key intergovernmental mechanism for making joint decisions and setting directions with regard to the production, availability and use of geospatial information within national, regional and global policy frameworks.

Led by United Nations Member States, UN-GGIM aims to address global challenges regarding the use of geospatial information, including in the development agendas, and to serve as a body for global policymaking in the field of geospatial information management.

UN-GGIM aims at playing a leading role in setting the agenda for the development of global geospatial information and to promote its use to address key global challenges.

It provides a forum to liaise and coordinate among Member States, and between Member States and international organisations.

Download the GEOLAND session concept note published as part of the UN-GGIM official program

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GEOLAND Handbook : Technical Annex available

method diagramThe GEOLAND Project recently published, in partner languages, an Educational Handbook for monitoring European Landscape.  To complement this document a Technical Annex has been produced to provide details of the five methodological stages important for Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) by using GIS and public participation.

The five stages are:

i) Purpose definition
ii) Desk-based data collection
iii) Field-based data collection
iv) Classification and
v) Overall evaluation

They are dealt with in detail, offering information, advised, resources and tools to carry out a Landscape Character Assessment on Natura 2000 or other sites of interest.

Examples of site selection, desk-based collected datasets, approaches for field study and landscape character recognition are provided.

Monitoring and protecting the Landscape is a crucial environmental goal. The handbook and technical annex will help to enable the uptake of novel ways to engage and empower students in environmental science and other disciplines and stimulate participatory decision-making. GEOLAND highlights the fact that students and, in general, citizens can in fact have a real impact in environmental monitoring and landscape management.

Download the GEOLAND Technical Annex

The Annex is also available in partner languages-  Bulgarian, Dutch, Greek, Spanish

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Educational Handbook published

The vision of the GEOLAND project is to establish and promote the effective participation of Higher Education (HE) institutions in monitoring actions leading to influencing decision-making for the implementation of the European Landscape Convention (ELC).handbook cover image

With this in mind the project has published an Educational Handbook with state-of-the-art information and materials on learning and teaching perspectives, methodologies including citizen science, and Landscape Character Assessment related to the European Landscape Convention.

The Educational Handbook can be downloaded in English, Bulgarian, Dutch, Greek and Spanish, from

A Technical Annex to the Handbook will shortly follow with examples, advice and guidance on the teaching and learning of the five methodological stages for Landscape Character Assessment.

Download a leaflet about the project

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The importance of satellite images

Satellite images are images of Earth collected by imaging satellites that are operated either by governments or companies. Satellite images are one of the most powerful and important tools we have for monitoring the earth. They track the physical environment (water, air, land, vegetation) and the changing human footprint across the globe. Satellite imagery is used to measure, identify and track human activity.

Satellite images have many applications for instance in meteorology and weather forecasting,  fishing, oceanography, agriculture, conservation, forestry, landscape analysis, geology, mapping, regional planning, environmental assessment, intelligence, warfare and education.  In education, satellite images are present in textbooks and online as support for maps, graphs and text.

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Currently, improvements in Earth Observation programs are opening the door for the educational community to increasingly use satellite image products. You can access them from the following links.

European Space Agency (ESA) :Using infra-red imagery
Edusat: Aprendre a observar la Terra
European Space Agency (ESA): Education resources 
NASA visible earth: image catalogue
NASA Earth Data Learn:  learning about image sensors 
Landsat Outreach: education resources
USGS: tracking change over time
Sentinel Hub: learn about satellite imagery