7th February 2017

RSPSoc Annual Lecture and Conversazione Provides Networking Opportunity for Students Attending The University of Manchester MSc GISc/ EMMR Programme

Thanks to The University of Manchester Student Experience Fund Julia McMorrow and Gail Millin-Chalabi took a group of MSc GISc and MSc Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction (EMMR) students to the ACC, Liverpool to attend the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society (RSPSoc) Annual Lecture and Conversazione. The event took place on 12th December 2016 and was attended by members of the Northwest Earth Observation Network (NEON). The lecture by Dr Nathalie Pettorelli a senior research fellow at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London was titled Satellite remote sensing for conservation: opportunities and challenges. The lecture provided an interdisciplinary perspective on the prospects of satellite remote sensing for conservation applications including some of the barriers and limitations of a remote sensing approach. The PGT students were attending GEOG60921 Environmental Remote Sensing which examines the spectral reflectance of peatland land cover classes in the Peak District National Park. This event provided them with complementary material in the ecological application of remote sensing as part of the British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2016 (BES 2016). The students were able to join a drinks reception after the lecture to network with other academics and researchers using remote sensing in and around the northwest (many of whom are members of NEON). Thanks go to RSPSoc for removing the attendance fee which enabled these local postgraduate students to attend this event.


Centre left: Julia McMorrow – Senior Lecturer in Remote Sensing, Centre right: Gail Millin-Chalabi – GIS and Remote Sensing Officer for SEED and Peter Kabano – PhD student in Remote Sensing. Left and right ends: PGT students from GEOG60921 Environmental Remote Sensing (Course Convenor – Julia McMorrow).


23rd November 2016

EnviroSAR Winner of the European Copernicus Masters Sustainable Living Challenge 2016

Dr. Gail Millin-Chalabi, Dr. Ioanna Tantanasi and Dr. Stefania Amici won the Copernicus Masters Sustainable Living Challenge funded by the Satellite Applications Catapult (SAC) and were runners-up for the overall Copernicus Competition raising the profile of Earth Observation at The University of Manchester: http://www.copernicus-masters.com/index.php?kat=winners.html&anzeige=winner_catapult2016.html . The prize includes £5,000 business support from the SAC and EUR 10,000 worth of Earth Observation data provided by the European Commission and participation on the Copernicus Accelerator Training Programme.

The Copernicus Masters Challenge is an EU-wide competition run by the European Commission and organized by Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO) to develop new applications using satellite data from the Copernicus missions. EnviroSAR; Managing Wildfire Disturbance in Moorlands and Heathlands is developing a system to use radar images from the Sentinel-1A and -1B sensors to monitor wildfire burn scars.  It will be the first national mapping and monitoring tool for UK wildfires and has attracted wide media attention please see:

Gov.uk website https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-wins-european-space-innovation-competitions

Satellite Applications Catapult https://sa.catapult.org.uk/news-events-gallery/news/uk-achieves-outstanding-success-european-space-innovation-competitions-winning-top-prize-four-major-awards/

Science Technology Funding Council http://www.stfc.ac.uk/news/outstanding-success-for-uk-companies-in-european-space-innovation-contest/

Thanks go to the England and Wales Wildfire Forum (EWWF), the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Services (NFRS) and Moors for the Future Partnership (MFFP) for letters of support which were provided to the judging panel.


Awards Ceremony, Madrid, 25 October 2016. Left to right: Stephen Spittle – Senior EO Specialist at Satellite Applications Catapult, Dr. Gail Millin-Chalabi – EnviroSAR Lead, Dr. Ioanna Tantanasi – Marketing Lead, Dr. Stefania Amici – Technical Lead.


10th November 2016

Ecohealth and Conservation Workshop 2016, Kunming, China.

Dr. Christopher Marston of the Edge Hill University Department of Geography was recently the UK representative at the Ecohealth and Conservation Workshop 2016 held in Kunming, China. Hosted by the International Research Network Ecosystem Health and Environmental Disease Ecology (IRN EHEDE), the workshop also included leading researchers from France, Australia, Japan, China and Singapore. The workshop focussed on systems approaches to eco-epidemiology in the study of disease ecology and pathogen transmission. A basic tenet of Ecohealth is that health and well-being cannot be sustained in a resource depleted, polluted and socially unstable planet. Therefore, Ecohealth scholars and practitioners engage in an integrated systems approach to health that sustain ecosystem health services, foster social stability and promote the peaceful interdependence, coexistence and evolution of humans, animals, plants and their environments.

The workshop had a strong focus on disease transmission, and Dr. Marston presented recent collaborative research conducted with IRN EHEDE partners involving the application of satellite remote sensing for studying and better understanding the environmental dynamics that influence the transmission patterns of the highly pathogenic parasitic tapeworm Echincoccus multilocularis, and the potential for these methods to be applied more broadly in the ecohealth and conservation fields.

More broadly, the IRN EHEDE looks to develop links between disciplines and sectors that can contribute to ecohealth and conservation studies. It has the objective of promoting exchanges and bringing better legibility to collaborative research in Asia, Europe and North America, linking ecosystem health (e.g. the long-term sustainability of ecological processes and the integrity of ecosystem services) and disease ecology (e.g. the processes by which diseases can sustain or be controlled in a given ecosystem). Further details can be found at http://gdri-ehede.univ-fcomte.fr/




10th November 2016

NEON is pleased to announce two RSPSoC-sponsored events taking place in Liverpool shortly before Christmas:

RSPSoc Annual Lecture and Conversazione
Satellite remote sensing for conservation: opportunities & challenges
Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, Zoological Society of London
British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2016 Thematic Session
Europe’s Earth observation Sentinels – new opportunities for ecology
12 December 2016; ACC, Liverpool

Full details below

RSPSoc Annual Lecture and Conversazione
Satellite remote sensing for conservation: opportunities & challenges
Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, Zoological Society of London
19:00, 12 December 2016; ACC, Liverpool Followed by a drinks reception. Free entry to RSPSoc members – to register, contact rspsoc@nottingham.ac.uk by 21 November

Global environmental change is a growing threat to the Earth’s biological diversity, potentially leading to detrimental impacts on ecosystem services and human well-being, particularly for the world’s most marginalized and impoverished communities. Our ability to monitor the state of biodiversity and the impacts of global environmental change on our natural capital is fundamental to designing effective adaptation and mitigation strategies. This requires the scientific community to assess spatio-temporal changes in the distribution of abiotic conditions and in the distribution, structure, composition and functioning of ecosystems. The potential for satellite remote sensing (SRS) to provide key data has been highlighted by many researchers, with SRS offering repeatable, standardised and verifiable information on long-term trends in biodiversity indicators. SRS permits one to address questions on scales inaccessible to ground-based methods alone, facilitating the development of an integrated approach to natural resource management, where pressures to biodiversity, biodiversity state and consequences of management decisions can all be monitored. Here I will provide an interdisciplinary perspective on the prospects of SRS for conservation applications, reviewing established avenues but also highlighting new research and technological developments that have a high potential to make a difference in global change ecology and environmental management. I will also discuss current barriers to the ecological application of SRS-based approaches, and identify possible ways to overcome some of these limitations.

Nathalie Pettorelli is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London. Her research, grounded in applied ecology and conservation biology, focuses on deepening our understanding of the impacts of global environmental change, particularly climate change, on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Nathalie is currently chair of the Conservation Specialist Interest Group for the British Ecological Society. She is also Senior Editor for Journal of Applied Ecology and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, and Editor in Chief of Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation.

British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2016 Thematic Session
Europe’s Earth observation Sentinels – new opportunities for ecology
15:15-17:15, 12 December 2016; ACC, Liverpool

Ecological and environmental analysis is inherently spatial in nature, and investigations can often extend over large spatial extents. The benefits (and limitations) of remote sensing in ecology are well known; users now have free access to a 40 year archive of Landsat imagery enabling medium resolution mapping, monitoring and modelling of land cover, habitats and ecosystems. We are currently entering a new era of European Earth observation, with the development of a series of Sentinel missions, a central strand of the EU’s long-term environmental monitoring strategy. These Sentinels will provide a suite of advanced remote sensing instruments, delivering a continuous source of frequent, high resolution images of the Earth’s surface. Moreover, these data will be free for all users. The Sentinels offer incredible opportunity for ecological and environmental science. Sentinels-1 and -2 are now delivering high quality data, and early scientific results using these data sources have demonstrated their significant potential in the discipline of ecology, including application to natural resource management, biodiversity and climate change. Further missions are scheduled to ensure data continuity until the late 2020s and beyond. Collectively, the Sentinels will provide an unrivalled portfolio of Earth observation data, providing spatially and spectrally detailed, and temporally frequent, imagery that can be applied to map, model and monitor a vast range of ecological phenomena. There are very considerable opportunities for collaboration between the ecology and remote sensing communities, and this topic provides a perfect mechanism to combine to mutual purpose.


Sentinel-2 multispectral image extract of Buxton and the Peak District, 29 December 2015


[PLENARY] Dr Gebhard Banko, Environment Agency Austria: A land information system for Austria driven by Sentinel data
 Dr Geoff Smith, Specto Natura: Intermediate Sentinel products for the exploitation of EO within habitat mapping and ecosystem assessment
 Dr Katie Medcalf, Environment Systems: Use of Sentinel data for natural capital assessment
 Dr Qunming Wang, Lancaster University: Creating daily Sentinel-2 time-series to investigate fine spatial resolution vegetation phenology
 Dr Chris Marston, Edge Hill University: Can’t see the scrub for the trees: woody habitat discrimination in heterogeneous African landscapes using time-series Sentinel-1 data
 Professor Mark Danson, University of Salford: Sentinel-2 maps fuel moisture dynamics in upland vegetation
 Dr Dan Morton, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology: Habitat Sentinels: automated monitoring of the UK landscape
Chair: Professor Paul Aplin, Edge Hill University

Organised by the Northwest Earth Observation Network (NEON), with support from the British Ecological Society, Environment Systems, Specto Natura, Sterling Geo and the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society.


For conference registration, see http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/events/annual-event-2016/

24th October 2016

Environmental hydro-refugia demonstrated by vegetation vigour in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

In a recent paper co-authored by Dr Christopher Marston along with collaborators from Bournemouth University and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, satellite remote sensing is used to illustrate how, given appropriate geohydrology, a rift basin and its catchment can buffer vegetation response to climate signals on decadal time-scales. Focussing on the Okavango Delta, Botswana, a unique wetland ecosystem that supports a high biodiversity of animal and plant life in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, time-series Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) imagery from the MODIS sensor was used to map areas of plant growth (vigour) associated with this wetland over a 13-year period.

Harmonics analysis (time series) of vegetation phenology both within and outside the Delta via this time-series NDVI data identified short-term deviations from longer-term phenological patterns due to events such as drought, fire or extensive flooding, often resulting from climatic variability. This study determined that these short-term deviations were suppressed within the Okavango Delta, suggesting that the Delta properties appear to repress the effects of seasonal and decadal climatic variability on vegetation, enabling it to act as a hydro-refugia even during the driest seasons. While this has been described previously, it has never before been demonstrated via remote sensing. This suppression of climatic variability provides reliable levels of plant growth that enables populations of antelope, elephant, birds and fish to survive in the middle of this desert area. There is even one species of antelope, the grey rhebok (Pelea capreolus), that has been separated from other populations for long enough to become genetically distinct.

Climate shifts at decadal scales can have environmental consequences, and therefore, identifying areas that act as environmental refugia is valuable in understanding future climate variability. This provides insight, not only to the potential impact of future climate in the region, but also demonstrates why similar basins are attractive to fauna to provide short-term climate refuge against environmental extremes.


Figure 1. NDVI residuals for a decadal span (2001–2013) derived from MODIS imagery for the Okavango Delta. Note the low residuals (blue) inside the alluvial system compared to those outside (red/yellow), indicating lower deviation from the typical phenological vegetation cycle (i.e. greater stability) within the Delta.

The complete paper reference is: Reynolds, S. C., Marston, C. G., Hassani, H., King, G. C. P., and Bennett, M. R., 2016, Environmental hydro-refugia demonstrated by vegetation vigour in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Sci. Rep. 6, 35951; doi: 10.1038/srep35951. This article has been published open access and is available from: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep35951

26th September, 2016

Hominin home ranges and habitat variability: exploring modern African analogues using remote sensing

How did our early ancestors use the landscape they lived in? One approach is to attempt to reconstruct their landscape from fossil plants and other remains – but often this detail is not preserved. In a new approach Dr. Christopher Marston of Edge Hill University, along with collaborators Dr. David Wilkinson (Liverpool John Moores University) and Dr. Hannah O’Regan (University of Nottingham), used the vegetation of parts of modern Africa as analogues for the past. This allowed them to investigate the effects of the theorised home ranges of early human ancestors and their resulting access to different habitat types and resources important for feeding and shelter. That is, how many different habitat types might be expected to occur in a home range of a given size. Published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, this study drew upon the numerous examples of hominin home ranges sizes established within the palaeo-anthropological literature. It then performed an analysis of modern African landscapes using satellite remote sensing to investigate the effects of these different home range sizes on access to habitat types and resources.

This novel approach enabled examination of the effects of differing range sizes on resulting access to habitat types. Conducted over seven study areas spanning from Ethiopia to South Africa, land cover maps generated from satellite imagery enabled the variety and area of different habitats within the randomly-located home range areas to be calculated (see figure). Results indicate that the number of habitat types within a range is surprisingly scale invariant – that is increasing range size makes only a very modest difference to the number of habitat types within an estimated hominin home range. However, when focussed examination was performed using transects placed perpendicular to a water body (such as a lake or river bank), it is apparent that the greatest number of habitats are seen near water bodies, and decline with distance. This suggests additional advantages to living by freshwater other than the obvious one associated with access to drinking water, and may indicate that the finding of hominins in fluvial and lacustrine deposits is not simply a taphonomic issue. Comparison of the distribution of modern canopy cover with the fraction of woody canopy cover calculated from fossil pedogenic carbonate stable isotopes also suggests that the presence of closed woodland may be under-represented at fossil sites.


Above: Nested buffers of different radii based on estimated hominin home range sizes, overlaid on a land cover classification of the Kruger National Park, South Africa, demonstrating land cover variability within different radii around a single fixed point.

The complete paper reference is: O’Regan H,J., Wilkinson D.M. and Marston C. G., 2016, Hominin home ranges and habitat variability: exploring modern African analogues using remote sensing, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 9: 238-248. doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.06.043

31st August, 2016

The terrestrial laser scanning in forest ecology

The full programme of 16 invited speakers for our Royal Society Theo Murphy Scientific meeting in February 2017 is now available at: https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2017/02/forest-ecology/

We have around 50 participants to date and there are still places available. If you would like to attend (there is no registration fee) press the ‘Request an invitation’ button from the link above.

Poster contributions are welcomed and again follow the guidelines on the Royal Society’s web page. For further information please contact Prof. Mark Danson of Salford University(f.m.damson@salford.ac.uk)


18th July, 2016

National crop maps for Wales and Scotland now available

Agriculture policymakers and businesses can now identify arable crops and grassland across Wales and Scotland via the CEH Land Cover® plus Crop Map 2015. The product, based on the 2015 growing season, is an important new source of information for agri-business, providing advisors and suppliers with intelligence on the precise location of crops grown. Maps for England and Northern Ireland will be available soon.

CEH Land Cover® plus: Crops is the first detailed crop map of the entire UK. An early version (except Northern Ireland) was presented in March 2016. The new Wales and Scotland maps have been extensively validated using land parcel data from each country. The final quality assurance showed a total accuracy across all crop classes of 97% for Wales, and 95% for Scotland.

Up-to-date crop maps are an important tool for farming and environmental policy-makers and regulatory agencies. Agriculture impacts directly on biogeochemical and water cycles, nutrient balances and hydrological and biological systems. Through better understanding of crop distribution, crop rotations and their downstream consequences, changes in practice can be implemented to bring about reduced pollution, wildlife conservation and improved control over the spread of crop diseases.


Above: Vale of Glamorgan county borough outline (left) and detail (right) in CEH Land Cover® plus Crop Map 2015 (see key). © NERC (CEH) 2016; © Remote Sensing Applications Consultants Ltd 2016. © Crown Copyright 2007 OS 100017572

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Remote Sensing Applications Consultants Ltd (RSAC) jointly developed the CEH Land Cover® plus products, which map arable crops and grassland at the field-level. They combine CEH’s existing UK Land Cover Map with new analysis of radar satellite data from the European Copernicus Sentinel missions. They are among the first operational products to be obtained from the Sentinel missions.

Dr Daniel Morton, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology’s scientific lead on the project, said, “It is very satisfying to be involved with this important work. This is the first project we are aware of to produce a national scale product of this kind using ESA’s new Sentinel-1 satellites. Combining accurate cropping with land cover and habitat information will help us to understand how agriculture affects the ecology of the UK countryside and conversely the benefits and services, for example crop pollination, that healthy ecology provides agriculture.

“With a better understanding of these interactions we can develop sustainable agricultural practices, benefiting farmers and wildlife whilst providing a secure food source for our growing population.”

Mike Wooding, RSAC, said, “The Sentinel-1 radar satellites provide frequent repeat images independent of weather conditions, so we can guarantee the production of our crop maps year-on-year. From this year, we are planning to have the annual crop maps available in October every year”.

Dr Nick Wells, Director of Innovation and Impact at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said, “CEH Land Cover®plus Crop Map 2015 is a great example of industry collaboration with academia, delivering a tool to support policy-makers and businesses, as well as a platform for further research.”

Additional information

Contact datalicensing@ceh.ac.uk for further information on how to obtain CEH Land Cover® plus Crops. As well as complete country coverage, customised products for specific areas and/or crop types are also available.

For more information, see www.ceh.ac.uk/crops2015.

19th April, 2016

Space: the final frontier for biodiversity monitoring?

On the 29th April Dr. Luis Carrasco Tornero (CEH Lancaster) and Dr. Christopher Marston (Edge Hill University) attended the ‘Space: the final frontier for biodiversity monitoring?’ symposium hosted by the Zoological Society of London. This symposium brought together leading experts in biodiversity monitoring and satellite remote sensing to discuss ways to better capitalise on this technology to monitor biological diversity globally.

The focus of this symposium was to demonstrate the increasing importance of integrating technological developments with biodiversity monitoring initiatives, to present new interdisciplinary frameworks for better capitalising on satellite remote sensing technology to monitor biodiversity and report on changes in biological diversity globally, and to debate implications for policy and practice. As part of this event NEON members presented three research posters. Dr. Luis Carrasco Tornero presented two posters titled ‘From remote sensing to avian behaviour: changes in colony site selection strategies of herons and egrets over time’ and ‘Integrating Earth Observation and field data for biodiversity applications: three UK examples’, which was also co-authored by Dr. Clare Rowland (CEH Lancaster). Dr. Chris Marston presented a poster titled ‘Spatio-temporal land cover variability in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, with potential implications for conservation management’, which was co-authored by Prof. Paul Aplin (Edge Hill University).

Further information on the symposium can be found at: https://www.zsl.org/science/whats-on/space-the-final-frontier-for-biodiversity-monitoring

ZSL meeting

4th April, 2016

Salford scientist to lead Royal Society international research meeting

 Professor Mark Danson from the School of Environment & Life Sciences has won support from the Royal Society to lead a Theo Murphy International Scientific Meeting to be held at The Society’s Chicheley Hall in February 2017. The meeting will bring together a star line-up of researchers from around the world to discuss “The terrestrial laser scanning revolution in forest ecology”. Meeting co-organizers are from the University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Newcastle and University College London, and amongst the sixteen invited speakers are researchers from Australia, United States, Finland, Netherlands and the UK.

Terrestrial laser scanners, or TLS for short, provide detailed three-dimensional measurements of forests, by firing millions of laser pulses up into the canopy.  The information recorded can then be used to monitor changes in forest structure and biomass with unprecedented accuracy. These measurements are set to revolutionize the way in which ecologists measure forests, and will help determine whether forests are acting as carbon sinks, absorbing excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or carbon sources, adding to the greenhouse effect.

The Royal Society support builds on Salford’s outstanding track-record in the rapidly developing field of TLS for environmental applications, including a new instrument, the Salford Advance Canopy Analyser (SALCA), developed by Professor Danson’s team. Previous support for the research has been provided by the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council, and U.S. National Science Foundation.

The meeting will lead to a Special Themed issue of the Royal Society’s inter-disciplinary journal Interface Focus, with Professor Danson as lead editor. Professor Danson said: “This support from the UK’s most eminent scientific society will be a showcase Salford’s world-leading research in TLS applications in ecology. It will also provide a forum for developing this research field, along with other key players from around the world”.


Three dimensional forest ‘range’ image from the Salford Advanced Laser Canopy Analyser.

February 24, 2016

Gail Millin-Chalabi presents at the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research (CLCR)

Gail Millin-Chalabi gave an invited seminar titled ‘Radar multi-temporal and multi-sensor approach to characterise peat moorland burn scars and assess burn scar persistence’ at the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research (CLCR), University of Leicester, 24th February 2016, hosted by Beth Cole, Research Associate at CLCR. It was a great opportunity to share ideas and techniques of using radar data for peat moorland applications with the research group.  Suggestions for next research steps included: exploring data fusion methods with optical data, new data opportunities with Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-2A data and also looking at peatland instability with DInSAR. Stefania Amici also attended the presentation and had meetings during the visit with Darren Ghent from the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Kevin Tansey from Geography to discuss future funding and project applications.


February 3, 2016

Countryside Survey data used to map nectar plant changes since 1930s

By linking the land-cover maps of Britain made by Sir Dudley Stamp in the 1930s with data from the Countryside Surveys of Britain run by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), scientists have shown how nectar plants declined up to the 1970s and stabilised between the 1970s and 2000, and increased between 2000 and 2007.

The study provides new evidence to support the link between the decline in pollinators and change in nectar supply. This is an ongoing concern in Britain and many other parts of the world where pollinating insects are vital for both crop production, and maintaining the diversity of wild flowers and insects in the countryside.

The study, published on 4th February in Nature, CEH nature flower.jpgcombines vegetation survey data recorded over the last 80 years with new measurements of nectar to provide the most comprehensive assessment of historical changes in nectar supply ever published. The research was led by the Universities of Leeds and Bristol working with scienti
sts from CEH and Fera Science Ltd.

Researchers spent hundreds of hours extracting nectar from those flowering plant species that contribute the most to British vegetation. These were identified by analysing detailed plant species records from the Countryside Survey of Great Britain, a globally unique dataset that quantifies the extent and condition of habitats, soils and vegetation at the national scale. The results showed that just 22 plant species are responsible for over 90% of potential national nectar supply.

Countryside Survey methods differentiate the species composition of habitats and linear landscape features such as field boundaries and the sides of ditches and streams. Therefore the study was also able to rank the contribution of different habitats in fields, woodland and the unenclosed uplands as well as hedgerows, road verges, field boundaries and stream sides.

The paper shows that arable land was the poorest source of nectar nationally, both in terms of amount and diversity of sources but demonstrated that linear features, especially hedgerows could make a significant contribution especially in landscapes dominated by nectar-poor habitat types.

As they form a large area of Britain, Improved grasslands could contribute the most to national nectar supply if management favoured greater flowering of plants such as White Clover.

Dr Simon Smart, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, a co-author on the paper said “The results are a fascinating reminder of the importance of common plants in supporting vital ecosystem functions across the landscape. Nationally, a small number of species including clover, heather and thistles contribute hugely to nectar supply. The challenge is now to translate the findings of the paper into practical conservation advice. Ideally this should be supported by further monitoring of the impact of management efforts building on the historical context provided by past Countryside Surveys. Exactly this kind of model is now being applied in Wales where the Countryside Survey sampling design and its past time-series now provide the essential backdrop for measuring the ecological impact of the new Glastir agri-environment scheme”. See https://gmep.wales/ for further details.CEH Nature LCM

Co-author Dr Dan Morton, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, “This was the first national-scale study with access to the 2007 Land Cover Map and from the outset these data were fundamental to experimental design and analyses. It has been an exemplar of the integration of broad-scale habitat information derived from satellites with detailed field-derived observations (from the Countryside Survey, pollinator and nectar records) to enhance our understanding of ecological patterns and processes and the services they provide.

“The most dramatic changes to pollinator populations happened pre-1970s when data of nation-wide vegetation cover were scant and without the Dudley Stamp land use maps of the 1930s (the digital version used in this project was produced by the Environment Agency and Natural England) it would have been almost impossible to quantify long-term changes in pollinator resources. This emphasises the importance of repetitive national scale integrated monitoring.

“As environmental scientists it is our duty to continue and enhance this effort, to ensure that there are no more significant gaps, so that in another eighty years from now environmental scientists and decision-makers can muse over our naive, old-fashioned methods but be grateful for our foresight and be well equipped to make informed decisions for managing natural resources.”

Additional information

This research was supported by the UK Insect Pollinators Initiative (IPI) ‘AgriLand: Linking agriculture and land use change to pollinator populations’ project, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Wellcome Trust, Scottish Government, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) under the auspices of the Living with Environmental Change partnership: grant BB/H014934/1.

February 2, 2016

First ever UK digital crop map from satellite data

GB crops map 2015 small

The first ever digital map of the UK’s arable crops has been created through an innovative collaboration between environmental researchers and business using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 Radar Satellite.

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) has joined forces with Remote Sensing Applications Consultants Ltd (RSAC) to produce Land Cover plus: Crops. It combines CEH’s existing UK Land Cover Map with new analysis of radar satellite data to map arable crops and grassland at the field level.

Land Cover plus: Crops is one of the first operational products to be obtained from the European Copernicus Sentinel Mission, which is a long-term programme providing a series of satellites for reliable, repeated monitoring of the earth surface.

A time series of Sentinel-1 radar data have been used to produce the 2015 map, with more than 350 individual images of the UK being processed covering the whole crop growing season. Radar data are not affected by cloud cover and can be acquired day or night under all weather conditions.

Over the next three years, crop maps will be updated annually, building up rotational cropping information for the whole UK. From 2016 onwards crop mapping will also incorporate the use of Sentinel-2 optical data.

Annual mapping of arable crops over the whole country brings a range of potential applications, including the analysis of crop rotations and changing cropping patterns for crop science, as well as uses in catchment-sensitive farming, improved catchment modelling, wildlife conservation and the potential evaluation of crop diseases.

Better evidence to inform planning and decison-making

More precise knowledge of crop areas and field locations will provide policy-makers, regulatory agencies and land managers with better evidence to inform planning and decision-making.

CEH crop map

Above: detail from Land Cover plus: Crops. Note, white areas are non-agricultural. Above right: GB map (pre-production image minus Northern Ireland)

The Land Cover plus: Crops vector product will be available to licence from March 2016 for the whole of the UK or for customised areas or crop types.

Dr Daniel Morton, lead CEH scientist on the project, said: “This product follows a fascinating and successful body of research funded by NERC and Innovate UK and highlights the importance of the ESA Sentinel programme. A colleague once likened the pre-Sentinel era to sitting under a dripping tap not knowing when the next useful satellite image would arrive. The arrival of freely available Sentinel data is analogous to the tap now gushing and the research and business opportunities this presents are countless.

“It is a great privilege to be associated with the first national-scale product to exploit the Sentinel-1 mission and I look forward to future collaborations with Remote Sensing Applications Consultants Ltd.”

Nicholas Corker, Innovation Manager at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said, “The Crop map project with RSAC is a great example of collaboration and co-production to produce an innovative product that will benefit both business and science. In its use of Copernicus data, this project fits squarely within the aspirations of Defra’s road map for Earth Observation.”

Remote Sensing Applications Consultants Ltd Managing Director Mike Wooding said, “Not only is Land Cover plus: Crops the first ever crop map of the UK, we also believe it to be the world’s first detailed national or regional crop map based on satellite radar data.

“It is a product of excellent collaboration between Remote Sensing Applications Consultants Ltd and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. With the enlarging family of Sentinel satellites, we are now working at ways of providing earlier crop intelligence and planning the launch of another significant new product.”

Additional information

Product and pricing information is available via www.ceh.ac.uk/crops2015

January 26, 2016

Disentangling the urban environment – new journal paper in Remote Sensing

 Recent research in the Department of Geography demonstrates the problems and pitfalls of conventional remote sensing analysis for mapping complex urban environments, and heralds new image data sources and classification techniques for this purpose. Professor Paul Aplin’s work with external PhD student Rahman Momeni and co-supervisor Dr Doreen Boyd (at the University of Nottingham) presents a rigorous study using WorldView-2 imagery to map land cover around the city of Nottingham. This research holds great promise for land use planning and a host of other urban monitoring applications. The paper is published in the open access journal Remote Sensing and is available to all free of charge. To access, click on the doi link below:

Momeni, R., Aplin, P. and Boyd, D.S., 2016, Mapping complex urban land cover from spaceborne imagery: the influence of spatial resolution, spectral band set and classification approach, Remote Sensing, 8, doi:10.3390/rs8020088.

disentangling th eurban environment

Urban land cover across scales, spectra and classifiers – image data and analysis variables hold great significance for influencing the detail and accuracy of urban mapping.

January 5, 2016

Where’s the swamp gone for peat’s sake? – Public lecture at the Royal Geographical Society

In December, Professor Paul Aplin presented a public lecture to some 350 assembled guests and members of the public at the Royal Geographical Society in London. The lecture focused on the decline of peat swamps in North Selangor, Peninsular Malaysia, driven in large part by expanding palm oil plantations. Paul led a major expedition to the Malaysia in 2014, funded through the RGS-IBG Ralph Brown award and a NERC Airborne Research and Survey Facility grant. North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest includes a conservation reserve covering more than 80,000 ha, and is home to mammals such as long-tailed macaques, tapirs and sun bears; the Sumatran rhino is now sadly extinct in Peninsular Malaysia. The region has seen an increase in the area of palm oil plantations (many in peatland areas) from 31,000 ha in 1966 to 183,000 ha in 1995, with further expansion since that time. The lecture concluded with a commentary on the need to balance land use exploitation and conservation.

aplin public lecture

Paul Aplin discusses his work with broadcaster and author Nick Crane, President of the Royal Geographical Society.