[Taxacom] FW: [Conservation Commons] GEO announces free and unrestricted access to full Landsat archive

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Wed Nov 26 11:55:03 CST 2008

For those interested in using and having unrestricted access to remote
sensing data and environmental analysis, this is a feast! It think, this is
not just a big contribution towards decision making, but rather to put
specimen data on the ground.


Happy Thanksgiving from the other side of the Atlantic








cess-to-full-landsat-archive/>  announces free and unrestricted access to
full Landsat archive 

Universal availability of cost-free satellite data and images will
revolutionize the use of Earth observations for decision-making


In a breakthrough announced here today by the Group on Earth Observations
(GEO), scientists and decision-makers around the world will soon have
unrestricted access at no charge to the Landsat archive, the world’s most
extensive collection of continuously-acquired remotely-sensed satellite


"Remote-sensing satellites are impartial and essential recorders of the
fast-moving story of the Earth’s changing surface," said José Achache,
Director of the GEO Secretariat. "Landsat’s nearly four decades of
accumulated Earth imagery data will provide an historical record that,
combined with continuous updates, will make it possible to interpret and
anticipate changes to the Earth’s surface with far greater certainty than
ever before."


Although satellites have been observing the Earth for several decades,
access to the collected data has been limited. Free and open access to Earth
observation data, however, is of critical importance to science-based
decision-making about the global environment and the management of natural
resources. GEO is therefore working to build an international consensus on a
set of Data Sharing Principles that can be adopted at a GEO Ministerial
Summit in 2010.


"GEO’s announcement last year that the China-Brazil Earth Resources
Satellites (CBERS) would distribute its images free-of-charge was an
essential first step. Today’s announcement means that the unique and
invaluable Landsat archive – already used by perhaps a few thousand
scientists and experts – will now be accessed by millions of users. The
European Union has also recently announced a free data policy for the
Sentinel satellites that it will soon launch. These measures will boost
global efforts to tackle climate change, deforestation, natural disasters,
disease epidemics, resource depletion and other challenges. We are entering
a new era in environmental monitoring," said Mr. Achache.


Beginning with the launch of Landsat I in 1972, the Landsat satellites have
produced an impressive archive of 2 million space-based, moderate-resolution
images. From 400 miles above the Earth, the scale of Landsat imagery makes
it particularly useful for analyzing and addressing natural and
human-induced changes to the planet’s surface. By the end of this year, the
full collection will, for the first time, be readily available on-line to
users around the globe.


Among its many applications, Landsat data have helped to map the aftermath
of the devastating 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, examine the potential
links between deforestation and environmental problems in Romania, study the
impacts of rapid urban growth in China, develop policies to safeguard
fragile ecosystems in South Africa, and identify the threats of
post-hurricane flooding and wildfires in the US. 


Landsat was developed by the US Geological Survey and the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which work closely with the
European Space Agency and a network of ground stations in 13 countries. This
international Landsat partnership ensures virtual coverage of the global
land mass. Like most Earth observation satellites, Landsat uses sensors to
measure solar light reflected off the Earth’s surface.  The ground stations
around the world receive these measurements as data. The data are then
converted into digital images. 


Some examples of the important services that the Landsat archive and other
remotely sensed imagery can provide include:
¤ Evaluating the impact of climate change.  In Romania, one of the fastest
growing areas is in the north part of Bucharest, a section in which building
growth can put high pressure on natural cover, like forests.  Because land
cover change affects climate generally and local micro-climate in
particular, a time series of Landsat data  is being used to monitor and
evaluate the link between land cover changes over a 20-year period and their
impact on climate. How, for example, have changes affected the amount of CO2
in the air, which is a vital component of long-term air quality? Models will
be run as a basis for planning strategically for future growth. 


¤ Monitoring ecosystems. Aside from the world’s tropical ecosystems, South
Africa’s Cape Floristic region has the greatest concentration of plant
species in the world. The dominant type of vegetation is the fynbos, a
shrubland comprising hard-leafed evergreen, fire-adapted shrubs. Landsat
coverage over the decades shows how large tracts of fynbos have been cleared
for agricultural use and urban expansion. Scientists monitoring ecosystem
changes use the Landsat imagery acquired over time to develop policy
guidelines to protect and preserve fragile ecosystems. Based on Landsat
data, managers may limit access to the most endangered species and restrict
the conversion of shrublands to agricultural use.


¤ Urban planning. Three decades of Landsat coverage show the rapid expansion
of cities in China’s Shanghai region. Monitoring the growing road network
between these cities helps planners anticipate regional infrastructure needs
and identify areas that can accommodate further growth. Urban planners use
Landsat data to measure the size and location of current roads and then
match that information with the direction of growth to aid in determining
where new roads are needed. The loss of cropland is evaluated and new
farming areas are established, increasing the efficiency of food
distribution to the growing population. Landsat’s objective measurements are
also valuable tools for studying the impact of growth on water supplies and
coastal ecosystems, especially since growing cities have an enormous impact
on ground water resources. Landsat imagery is also used for monitoring sites
for new wells and drainage in fragile ecosystems. Similarly, in Las Vegas,
Nevada, which is the fastest growing large city in the US, planners use
Landsat data to help anticipate infrastructure such as water systems, road
networks, school development and utility load.


¤ Responding to natural disasters. Comparing the Landsat coverage acquired
in 2001 to the coverage acquired in the days following the 2004 tsunami made
it possible to pinpoint the devastation along the northwest coast of
Sumatra. Emergency response managers used the imagery to evaluate
destruction along coastlines, river channels and estuaries. Because the
tsunami intruded as far inland as three kilometers, Landsat imagery was used
to evaluate the destruction to forests, cropland, and population centers.
The data also aided the decision-makers responsible for relocating former
population centers and determining emergency evacuation routes.


The Group on Earth Observations was established in 2005 after the World
Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the Group of Eight leading
industrialized countries (G8) and three ministerial Earth Observation
Summits all called for improving existing observation systems. Its
membership now includes 74 countries and the European Commission; 51
"participating organizations" also contribute to its work. 


GEO is coordinating the construction of the Global Earth Observation System
of Systems. GEOSS addresses nine priorities of critical importance to the
future of the human race. It aims to help countries to protect themselves
against natural and human-induced disasters, understand the environmental
sources of health hazards, manage energy resources, respond to climate
change and its impacts, safeguard freshwater resources, improve weather
forecasts, manage ecosystems, promote sustainable agriculture, and conserve



 <http://www.cbd.int/ibd/2008> International Day for Biological Diversity -
22 May 2008 - Biodiversity and Agriculture <http://www.cbd.int/cop9> ONE
NATURE, ONE WORLD, OUR FUTURE - COP9 MOP4 Convention on Biological Diversity


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