Leveraging Space Technologies to Achieve SDG 15 – Life on land

The Sustainable Development Goal 15 (SDG 15) aims to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss. In addition, to monitor the progress of SDG 15, the United Nations developed 12 targets to be measured by 14 indicators. In addition, nine are outcome targets while the remaining three are means of achieving the targets.

The nine outcome targets include:

  • conserve and restore terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems; 
  • end deforestation and restore degraded forests; 
  • end desertification and restore degraded land; 
  • ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems;
  • protect biodiversity and natural habitats; 
  • protect access to genetic resources and fair sharing of the benefits; 
  • eliminate poaching and trafficking of protected species; 
  • prevent invasive alien species on land and in water ecosystems; and 
  • integrate ecosystem and biodiversity in governmental planning. 

The three means of achieving the targets:

  • increase financial resources to conserve and sustainably use ecosystem and biodiversity;
  • finance and incentivize sustainable forest management;
  • combat global poaching and trafficking.

To achieve SDG 15, space technologies can be utilised for:

  • Bio-geophysical land surface monitoring;
  • Wetland Monitoring and Assessment;
  • Terrestrial biodiversity monitoring;
  • Monitoring of poaching and identification of smuggling routes.
Wetland Monitoring and Assessment 

Wetlands are highly productive and biologically diverse ecosystems that contribute significantly to livelihood and economic development. As a result, effective assessment and monitoring mechanisms can inform policy and decision making to promote the sustainable management of wetlands. This will have a direct positive impact on the quality of life of communities whose activities contribute to degrading these ecosystems.

To this end, Centre de Suivi Ecologique (CSE) specialises in Wetland Monitoring and Assessment and develops solutions to improve the sustainable management of wetlands across eight West African nations. The solution includes the dissemination of information on three themes related to wetlands: water (wetland inventory, water body dynamics and water quality), vegetation (invasive aquatic plants, mangrove monitoring, land use and land cover mapping), and soil (soil moisture and soil salinisation).

Also, the Centre for Space Science and Technology Education (CSSTE) specialise in riverine flood monitoring and assessment and addresses the lack of capacity of disaster management organisations in terms of logistics and knowledge of flood events. The centre also tackles weaknesses of existing forecasting systems, setbacks in the development and use of flood hazard maps for managing floods in West Africa, and challenges faced by disaster management institutions and other organisations in harnessing the potential of EO technologies.

In addition, the Agence Gabonaise d’Etudes et d’Observations Spatiales (AGEOS) leads GMES and Africa’s Central African consortium, which comprises Commission des Forêts d’Afrique Centrale (COMIFAC) of Cameroon, Office Burundais pour la Protection de l’Environnement, Institut National pour l’Environnement et la Conservation de la Nature (INCOMA) of Equatorial Guinea., and Université de Moundou of Chad. AGEOS continually monitors forest cover, forest condition and biomass, wetlands of flooded areas, logging and mining activities. In addition, AGEOS actively monitors agricultural activities at a rural and industrial-scale whilst providing training, capacity building, and communication services.

Also, the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) is set up to mitigate ineffective or constrained wetland assessment and monitoring. To that end, SASSCAL utilises an integrated web-based platform to analyse and integrate information from various sources, including EO and in-situ, assess wetlands conditions, and provide wetland information services to target groups and end-users. The SASSCAL consortium covers river basins of the SADC region, and institutional members include the University of Botswana, South African National Space Agency, South Africa National Remote Sensing Centre, Midlands State University, University of Zambia and University of Western Cape.

Furthermore, the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) is the lead institution for one of GMES and Africa’s consortia in the Eastern Africa region. Based in Kenya, the consortium addresses land degradation, wetlands monitoring and assessment and agro-ecological zonings. The consortium’s target beneficiaries include communities and individuals dealing with natural resources management at all levels, farmers, nomadic pastoralists and rural communities, civil services, local authorities, city councils, parks and natural reserves administrations.

Also, in support of the Nigerian Government’s commitment to increasing food supply, NASRDA researched to develop a Fadama Land Information Management System (FLIMS) in collaboration with Satellite Application Centre, South Africa. FLIMS aimed to assist in enhancing Fadama (or wetland) based rice cultivation. Using NigeriaSat-1 images, the result of the project shows that about 3 million hectares of Fadama land were available for rice production in Nigeria. In another project, NASRDA, in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria, explored the use of NigeriaSat-1 to provide relevant spatial and agro-meteorological data for field assessment and yield modelling/prediction for cassava. The project includes sub-plot sampling for two years using satellite data and spectrometer for field measurement of spectral reflectance.

Terrestrial biodiversity measurement

The IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre (ICPAC) covers East Africa’s IGAD region and addresses natural habitat conservation, forest degradation and deforestation; agricultural seasonal monitoring, early warning and assessment; rangeland seasonal monitoring, as well as early warning and assessment. In addition, it provides wildlife and conservation authorities with maps and predictive information on human-wildlife conflicts, as well as forage availability and distribution. 

ICPAC is well-positioned to deliver its mandate with most of the required technical infrastructure, training and communication need already in place to support the long term management of natural resources in East Africa’s IGAD zone. The consortium is providing opportunities for research, higher education and training. It has already sponsored two Masters Degree students undergoing relevant programmes in natural resource management and trained sixty persons at the national level.

In addition, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the AfriSAR field campaign in Gabon in July 2015. The team led by the French National Aerospace Research Centre collected radar and field measurements of the country’s forests. The data will help prepare to calibrate four current and upcoming spaceborne missions for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), ESA and the German space agency that aim to, among other goals, better determine the role of forests in Earth’s carbon cycle.

Also, the Space Climate Observatory (SCO) under the project TropiSCO Amazonia aims to map deforested areas [in the Guiana Shield, Southeast Asia and Gabon] in near-real time and to publish the information so that local decision-makers can intervene, alert the public, and account for lost surfaces. TropiSCO proposes to develop a platform for monitoring tropical deforestation on a global scale using Sentinel-1 radar images. The main advantage of this project lies in the short delay between the event in the forest and the detection by the algorithm, typically between six and 12 days, depending on the area considered.

The East and Southern Africa Forest Observatory (OFESA) aims at providing streamlined information on the trends and threats to forests in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda to support better decision-making to improve the management of forests. In addition, the observatory seeks to foster data-sharing across the region to support collaboration in forest management and address common issues. OFESA is jointly led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD). The European Union funds this initiative, and the target beneficiaries of this project are forest, environment, biodiversity and wildlife Institutions.


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