Remote sensing and land management PDF Print E-mail

Linking national scale remotely sensed ground cover to land management priorities


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Project overview


Accurate and timely information on ground cover condition is a key data input for assessing the impacts of land management practices and climate related effects such as droughts. Groundcover reduces the risk of soil erosion while maximising the goods and services obtained from the land, and is thus a key indicator in the success of land management programs. In the last few years, good progress has been made in developing methods to monitor ground cover using remotely sensed data from a variety of sensors.

Despite the advances made, a number of challenges associated with mapping land condition in rangeland and cropping areas still remain, including:


  • adequate comparison of alternative methods for measuring ground cover,
  • the error bias that remains in existing algorithms and the best methods to reduce them,
  • adequate validation across vast areas, and
  • separating the impacts of land management interventions from the natural effects of climate change and variability.

In addition, the adoption of the emerging technologies by land managers and policy makers has not been as broad as desired.

Stimulated by AusCover/TERN, we propose to bring together Australian and international experts in remote sensing techniques for ground cover, operationalisation of RS products, field data collection and rangeland and cropland monitoring for a four-days workshop. The aim is to assess current practise, establish future best practise and identify the gaps in knowledge and prepare for future sensor and data handling technologies to come in the next years. The key outcome will be a paper in a peer-reviewed international journal that summarises the state of the art in ground cover monitoring for land management and the challenges ahead. We expect the workshop to foster future collaboration within the Australian and international remote sensing communities.


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Fractional cover of the Australian continent


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Field measurements


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Products and outcomes


Conference presentations

Juan (Guerschman)  presented posters on this work on the team's behalf at two back-to back conferences in Germany in March 2014.


He presented a poster and paper at a workshop of the European Association for Remote Sensing Laboratories (EARSeL) at Humbolt University, Berlin on 'Frontiers for Earth Observation for Land System Science'  and you can download the poster here.


Juan also presented a poster at the Global Land Project Open Science Meeting. It can be downloaded here.


Final report


Download their final report here [2.2MB]


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Workshop Report (4 – 7 March 2013)

A group of 15 enthusiastic scientists gathered at the Moreton Bay Research Station on Stradbroke Island for three and a half days in early March. The aim was to assess current practice in remote sensing of ground cover, identify the gaps in knowledge and prepare for future sensor and data handling technologies to come in the next years.

The first day was devoted to presentations by participants giving an overview of their research. The following two and a half days were used for discussions and planning of a journal paper, which will be published as a workshop outcome.

The workshop participants can be loosely classified into two categories: the “producers” and the “users” of remotely sensed vegetation cover information. A fruitful dialog between the two groups allowed the “users” to better understand the strengths and limitations of the existing products that they use. The “producers” were also able to better understand how their products are being used and which of the users’ needs are not being fully covered, which will help guiding future research. It was agreed that a better understanding of the similarities and differences between existing algorithms and data products is needed.

The main outcome of the workshop will be a journal article where the existing algorithms and data products for mapping ground cover will be compared. The article will likely be submitted to Remote Sensing of Environment. For this purpose, a set of ~40 field sites with at least five measurements of vegetation fractional cover has been selected and the estimates of six existing models retrieved. We are assessing the performance of each model in estimating fractional cover at these sites. Additionally, we are comparing the spatial patterns of fractional cover from these products across Australia and assessing the areas of agreement and disagreement between these models. The results of this article will give the users of these products a good source of information to better understand their relative agreement (or lack of) and will also help the producers to identify likely causes of such differences which, in turn will help direct future research in remote sensing methodologies.

The workshop participants agreed that the venue, catering and housing environment were very appropriate and contributed to creating a relaxing atmosphere that positively influenced the workshop discussions.


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Linking remote sensing to land management Workshop 1 participants Back left to right: Greg Okin (University of California), Ken Clarke (University of Adelaide), Matt Purss (Geoscience Australia), Phil Tickle (CRC for Spatial Information), Jane Stewart (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), Rebecca Trevithick (DISITIA/TERN AusCover), Alexis McIntyre (Geoscience Australia), Bob Karfs (Dept Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Qld), Tim McVicar (CSIRO). Front left to right: Tim Malthus (CSIRO), Juan Guerschman (CSIRO), Peter Scarth (Joint Remote Sensing Research Program, DISITIA/TERN AusCover), John Leys (NSW Office of Environment & Heritage), Lucy Randall (ABARES) and Gary Bastin (CSIRO).
Absent from photo: Stuart Phinn (University of Queensland, TERN).


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Last Updated on Sunday, 08 February 2015 15:37