Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Responding to User Needs (cont'd)
Tuesday, 14/Mar/2017:
2:10pm - 3:30pm

Mtg. Room: Big Hall
Bldg 14

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2:10pm - 2:30pm

Monitoring and Assessing Land Use: Progress for Land System Science through Climate Change Research and SDGs

Martin Herold1, Patrick Hostert2, Sebastian van der Linden2, Jan Verbesselt1

1Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands; 2Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

We should rethink our common Earth Observation paradigm that one cannot observe land use and land use change (as compared to monitoring land cover) from remote sensing given the new opportunities we have at hand. Observation density from the Sentinel constellation plus the long-term legacy of the Landsat system are major cornerstones of this development. Open data policies push the use of data with a spatial grain from 10m to 30m and observation densities of a few days, which allow assessing land changes with a focus on how the observed land is used.

The climate change context has been one of the driving forces in global, regional and national monitoring of land cover and land changes. Relatively clear and documented user requirements (i.e. ECVs, REDD+, climate modelling) have stimulated dedicated observation programs. We here use the experiences and progress in this arena to highlight that observations are becoming available that lead to much more data-driven evidence/analysis of land changes and dynamics. At the same time, a dialog on opportunities and limitations of Earth Observations with the land change and system science community is emerging that will lead to a novel focus on monitoring land use with highly automated procedures. We will present several case studies on how that can become possible.

The recently signed Paris Climate agreement will lead to more investments in assessing land use effects on climate and to mitigation activities related to the land use sector. However, it seems essential and possible to move beyond purely climate change focused progress when monitoring land change with novel Earth Observation data. An important point of departure was created with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and related indicators and monitoring needs. Next to SDG 13 on “Climate Action”, specific opportunities may therefore arise in support of SDG 2 “Zero hunger” (e.g. on sustainable agriculture) and of SDG 15 “Life on Land” with a focus on the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

2:30pm - 2:50pm

Land Cover Information Requirements for Supporting Countries to set Land Degradation Neutrality Targets and Ensure Further Monitoring

Sara Minelli1, Sven Walter2, Alain Retière3

1UNCCD Secretariat, Bonn, Germany; 2UNCCD Global Mechanism, Rome, Italy; 3UNCCD Global Mechanism, France

Ongoing climate change, biodiversity collapse and food insecurity are largely caused by the global accelerating land degradation process resulting from destruction of natural ecosystems and inappropriate land management and agricultural practices. The need for urgent and bold action to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation, thereby achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN), became a firmly established global political target with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals target 15.3. In close conjunction with the other Rio Conventions, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) provides the international framework for LDN monitoring and implementation.

Building on lessons learned through a pilot project conducted in 14 voluntary countries and on recent efforts by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface to design a scientific conceptual framework for LDN, the UNCCD is currently supporting over 100 countries in operationalizing the LDN concept. The approach consists in setting voluntary national LDN baselines as well as targets and associated measures, removing legal and economic barriers to sustainable land management, reinserting restored land in sustainable production and monitoring progress based on a harmonized set of three measurable indicators.

The three indicators used as proxies of the ecosystem services that LDN is intended to deliver are 1) land cover, 2) land productivity and 3) soil organic carbon. Earth observations from space have proven their reliability to track over long periods land cover change and biomass activity. As many countries face difficulties to access this type of information, the UNCCD has established partnerships with the European Space Agency (ESA), the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC) and ISRIC - World Soil Information to provide all interested countries with national estimates derived from global datasets as default information for their national LDN target setting processes.

Our presentation will provide an overview of the indicator framework and associated data requirements at various scales. It will focus on the UNCCD experience in using the ESA Climate Change Initiative Global Land Cover product to provide default data on land cover and land cover changes occurred between 2000 and 2010, aggregated in 6 main categories (forest, shrub and grassland, cropland, wetland, artificial areas and bare land) and analyzed in conjunction with: i) NDVI-based land productivity dynamics data made available by the JRC; and ii) soil organic carbon estimates extracted from the ISRIC SoilGrids250m. The presentation will highlight the limitations faced in different ecological contexts (climate, topography, hydrology, geology) with different categories of land cover such as tree-based cropping systems, complex mosaic of small plots of crops and natural vegetation, wetlands and finally in identifying expansion of urban areas over croplands, that should be better addressed in the next generation of higher resolution Global Land Cover databases. It will also highlight the need to count on a 1990 epoch in the new release.

2:50pm - 3:10pm

Biodiversity and ecosystem service community user needs for global land cover and land use mapping

Brian O'Connor1, Neil Burgess1, Rachael Petersen2, Andrew Skidmore3

1UNEP-WCMC, 219 Huntingdon Road, Cambridge, CB3 0DL, United Kingdom; 2World Resources Institute, 10 G Street NE, Washington, DC 20002, United States of America; 3ITC, University Twente, Enschede, 7500 AA, Netherlands

Existing multi-purpose global land cover maps are of limited use in applications relating to biodiversity conservation. The reasons are twofold:

  • Most current global land cover products are not operational or are infrequently updated, preventing their use for monitoring status and trends in biodiversity.
  • Land cover maps that are frequently updated lack the detail in thematic classes required for conservation purposes.

Despite these shortcomings, multiple international environmental conventions cite land cover change as a key source of information to inform policy. The potential use cases for an annually-updated, synoptic view of land cover change are vast; however, the scientific community has yet to produce operational land cover monitoring systems that meet the thematic, spatial and temporal requirements of policy makers for tracking progress on global biodiversity commitments. For example, land use change is one of the four main causes of species extinction, linked to habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation and is a key pressure on biodiversity that needs to be tracked systematically. Yet land uses such as fertilizing a particular land cover (crop) can be very challenging to discern from the multispectral signal.

For scientific end users land cover can be both a discrete layer to monitor habitat cover and habitat change, as well as an input layer for species distribution models, the derivation of higher-level indicators of land use (in combination with contextual information) as well as for up-scaling Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) on ecosystem structure, such as height, and function, such as the functional diversity of terrestrial plant communities.

Meanwhile, great advances have been made in the field of forest cover monitoring. The advent of freely available, multi-decadal and high resolution satellite imagery has been a game-changer for monitoring global forest land cover change. High performance, cloud computing has made on-the-fly analysis of huge volumes of pixels feasible. The global community can now evaluate the extent of habitat loss for rare and endangered biodiversity, from tropical to boreal forests. For example, over one million visitors (1,500 daily) have logged onto the interactive online Global Forest Watch platform to view and analyse forest cover change datasets.

Yet many non-forested habitats harbour biodiversity of key importance for global conservation and are being lost at alarming rates that often outstrip the rate of forest loss, e.g. temperate grasslands of Eurasia, montane grasslands of Africa, and global wetlands. The progress of satellite remote sensing for mapping these land covers and their changes periodically and systematically lags behind that for forest cover. The 2000-2005-2010 ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI) 300m land cover datasets shows the potential for wall to wall land cover mapping using a standardised classification system.

This presentation will further explore these issues and present examples of international biodiversity and ecosystem service policy targets which urgently require timely and robust land cover data in order to track progress towards their achievement. These requirements will be framed in the context of the candidate set of EBVs proposed by the Group on Earth Observation Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON).

3:10pm - 3:30pm

Principles and Criteria for Creating, Disseminating, and Maintaining Operational Land Cover Monitoring Systems: Lessons Learned from More than 1 Million Users of Global Forest Watch

Mikaela J Weisse, Rachael Petersen, Fred Stolle

World Resources Institute

Improvements in the availability of earth observation satellite data, as well as increasing computation power and decreasing storage costs have made consistent, repeatable, global-scale forest change monitoring at medium resolutions a reality. The results of these monitoring efforts are delivered to the general public through the free, online Global Forest Watch platform. Since the launch of the Global Forest Watch platform in 2014, over 1 million unique users have accessed the platform from every country in the world, including users from national government agencies, commodity buying companies, journalists, researchers, and local communities. Forest change information from remotely sensed data is no longer simply a tool used by scientists, but increasingly an independent input into day-to-day forest management decisions by non-scientists.

The experience of Global Forest Watch in providing remotely-sensed data to the non-science community in usable, interactive formats has yielded many insights on how to build, disseminate, and maintain operational land cover monitoring systems. This presentation will reflect upon lessons learned from our over one million users to inform principles and criteria for future operational land cover monitoring.

This presentation will:

  1. Illuminate challenges in the use of remotely senses data by non-scientists (e.g. communicating accuracy, data limitations, and appropriate applications of data to a variety of end-users)
  2. Suggest key principals and criteria for data generation, including accuracy, timeliness, transparency, repeatability, and sustainability
  3. Identify current data gaps related to land cover monitoring that are most relevant to our audiences

We will provide evidence for these discussions by reflecting on the myriad ways our audiences are using GFW data and tools. Successful examples include law enforcement officials in Peru and Uganda using near-real time alerts to find and respond to illegal activities, palm oil traders in Indonesia identifying risk in their supply chains using GFW tools, and journalists raising awareness about ecologically-important forest under threat with forest change data and satellite imagery.

The success of operational forest monitoring to add value to decision-making has given rise to increasing demand for new and improved remotely sensed products. For example, law enforcement agencies would benefit from higher spatial and temporal resolution of near-real time change detection. International policy-makers are interested in better information on forest recovery and regrowth, and differentiation of primary, secondary, degraded, and planted forests. We have also seen increasing interest in global, annual data on land cover and land cover change beyond forests to improve land-use planning by governments, civil society, and the private sector, as well as to provide an independent benchmark for progress on ambitious forest- and land-related commitments, like the New York Declaration, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Targets. In addition, users from different disciplines all require data to be accurate, easy to understand, and reliably updated into the future. This presentation will emphasize the essential task of considering end-user requirements in order to build, maintain, and disseminate land cover monitoring systems for maximum impact on decision-making at local-to-global scales.

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