URBANEARS - Urban Ecosystem Analysis supported by Remote sensing

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Context and objectives

The growth in urban population and progressive global warming will put huge pressure on the quality of the environment in densely populated areas. Sustainable development and management of urban areas is crucial to the future living quality in our cities. Current policy support tools such as environmental models are not well adapted to the heterogeneity of urban landscapes and would benefit from detailed, multi-temporal, spatially distributed input data provided by remote sensing.


  1. Explore innovative approaches for spectral unmixing for improved land cover parameterisation of urban biophysical models, using airborne hyperspectral data, and assess their transferability to lower spatial and/or spectral resolution imagery;
  2. Examine the use of spectral and LiDAR remote sensing data for characterising chemical and structural properties of urban vegetation for improved land cover parameterisation of urban biophysical models;
  3. Consolidate properties of the urban environment, derived by remote sensing, by defining a local climate zone (LCZ) typology better suited to characterize urban climatic conditions for urban climate modelling;
  4. Develop a quantitative ecosystem service mapping tool on urban water regulation;
  5. Develop a framework for assessing impacts of urban growth and urban planning scenarios on urban heat and water regulation.


Project outcome

Expected scientific results

Peer-reviewed publication on and new algorithms for:

  • The comparison of alternative training approaches for unmixing of Landsat/Sentinel OLI data
  • The comparison of different endmember library optimization methodologies/workflows
  • Relevant cross-sensor spectral features for urban mapping applications
  • An analysis of unmixing approaches for mapping urban land cover from high resolution hyperspectral data
  • Methodologies and accuracies to assess vegetation properties through spectral and LiDAR analysis at different spectral and spatial resolutions and for different unmixing methodologies.
  • The transferability of new approaches for the estimation of urban land cover fractions, developed on high-resolution hyperspectral data, to data of lower spatial and/or spectral resolution
  • Relevance of RS-based local climate zone mapping for local policy makers
  • The applicability of the LCZ mapping system at different local scale levels
  • LCZ characterisation in terms of surface and air temperature
  • High resolution modelling and validation of the hydrological response of the urban ecosystem
  • Spatial metric upscaling for the assessment of the hydrological response of the urban ecosystem
  • Simulation framework for modelling impacts of urban growth and spatial planning on the (bio)physical characteristics of the environment
  • Assessment of impacts of urban growth scenarios on heat regulation and water fluxes


Expected products and services

  • Spectral database for urban surface materials with interface for sensor-specific resampling
  • Tools for spectral unmixing and for increasing the spectral separability and reducing the endmember variability of target land cover classes in urban mapping
  • Quantitative and spatial explicit maps of the chemical and structural properties of the urban vegetation for the main study site, derived from real and simulated sensor data
  • A LCZ mapping system based on Landsat, simulated Enmap and Sentinel-2 data
  • Characteristic profiles of relevant urban climatic parameters for all LCZ at multiple spatial scale levels, assisting local policy makers in their interpretation of LCZ maps
  • Distributed ecosystem service indicator maps regarding ‘urban water regulation’ for Brussels
  • A simulation tool for modelling impacts of alternative urban growth and spatial planning scenarios on the (bio)physical characteristics of the urban environment
  • Indicator maps characterizing environmental conditions for different urban growth scenarios in relation to urban climate and water fluxes


  1. Scientific community
  2. Regional and national agencies for the environment and regional planning
  3. European Environmental Agency
  4. Institute for Environment and Sustainability, EC Joint Research Centre