ENDELEO - Development of a remote sensing derived tool to assess the impact of conservation policy measures and drought on East African ecosystems

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Context and objectives

Drought in East Africa is a natural recurrent phenomenon that occurs approximately every seven years. However, the intensity and the scale of the impacts of the droughts have increased during the last decades. Overexploitation and degradation of natural ecosystems results in an increased vulnerability to drought. Natural ecosystems that have been overexploited and degraded over the last decades include rangelands and forests. A number of drivers are leading to the degradation of these ecosystems. Those drivers might include policy changes, population dynamics, climate change and market forces. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to establish the linkage between the degree and extent of degradation and the drivers. In view of the importance of the services provided by natural ecosystems to key sectors, such as energy, tourism and agriculture, there is an increasing interest from a large number of stakeholders to actively participate in natural ecosystems management and conservation. Access to updated information on the state and trends in the conservation of these ecosystems is a prerequisite to ensure effective participate management processes. The ENDELEO project aims at the promotion of good environmental governance in East-Africa of fragile ecosystems through Earth Observation. It focuses on two inter-related areas: (1) enhancing the understanding of management issues in drought vulnerable areas, in particular rangelands and forests and (2) providing concerned stakeholders with a remote sensing based monitoring tool to foster better environmental governance.

Project outcome

In accordance with the two project-objectives, the outcome from the project is as follow:

Outcome for objective 1:

Different methods for forest cover mapping were evaluated based on both high and low spatial resolution EO

data. Based on these maps, deeper insight is established in the impact of certain conservation measures.

Low resolution data can be used to regularly update the forest cover classification. The maps give an indication of the percentage of the forest class for each pixel. Using these percentage estimations, one could decide to investigate a specific area with large changes in more detail using high resolution data or by field visit.

Two approaches were used to create forest cover maps based on high resolution EO data. A first method

consists of a supervised classification which requires manual delineation of training pixels for the different

land cover. Besides a method was developed to automatically updated forest cover map based on new imagery.

Outcome for objective 2:

A clear vision on the profile of potential users and the understanding of their needs regarding remote sensing and GIS data was established and a network is set up of stakeholders that want to participate in the user community. A data distribution system was set up. Each month a new set of products are produced. These products are placed on the ftp-site of the ENDELEO-project. The end users are notified through e-mail that the product registered for is available. This e-mail also contains a quicklook of the concerning image.

A web-based application was built that enables the users to examine the data interactively (http://endeleo.vgt.vito.be/). Special attention was paid to making the ENDELEO monitoring website comprehensible to a broad group of users, including those with limited or no experience with remote sensing.