Knowledge for Development

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Managing fisheries from space: Google Earth improves estimates of fishing weirs catches

Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak and Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia, Canada, looked at recent technological advances that could help with the monitoring of fishery catches. Statistics submitted by countries to the FAO frequently neglect or under-report the contribution of small-scale fisheries, as well as illegal catches and discards. Trying to tackle this problem, the researchers have used freely available global satellite imagery via Google Earth, to count intertidal fishing weirs off the coast of six countries in the Persian Gulf. Combining the number of weirs with assumptions about daily catches and the length of the fishing season they estimated that the fishing gear contributed to a regional catch is up to six times higher than the officially reported catches. These results provide the first example of fisheries catch estimates from space, and point to the potential for remote-sensing approaches to validate catch statistics in fisheries.    (ICES Journal of Marine Science, 17/09/2014)   


SPIRITS software

SPIRITS (Software for the Processing and Interpretation of Remotely Sensed Image Time Series) was developed by VITO for the Monitoring Agricultural Resources unit (MARS) of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The software facilitates the analysis of time series of low and medium resolution remote sensing images. SPIRITS is an integrated and flexible free software environment for analyzing satellite derived image time series in crop and vegetation monitoring. With this toolbox, time series of low and medium resolution sensors such as SPOT-Vegetation and MODIS-Terra/Aqua can be processed and examined. It can be used to perform and to automatize many spatial and temporal processing steps on time series and to extract spatially aggregated statistics. Vegetation indices and their anomalies can be rapidly mapped and statistics can be plotted and interpreted in seasonal graphs to be shared with analysts and decision makers.    (EC JRC, 06/11/2013)


Land cover change monitoring using Landsat satellite image data over West Africa between 1975 and 1990

In this report, Marian Vittek, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, and colleagues examine land cover changes occurring between 1975 and 1990 in West Africa using a systematic sample of satellite imagery. Results reveal that in 1975 about 6% of West Africa was still covered by dense tree cover complemented with 12% of tree cover mosaic. Almost half of the area was covered by other wooded land and the remaining 32% was represented by other vegetation cover. Over the 1975–1990 period, the net annual change rate of cover was very low (less then -1%). On the other side, other vegetation cover increased annually by 0.70%, most probably due to the expansion of agricultural areas. This study demonstrates the potential of Landsat data for large scale land cover change assessment in West Africa and highlights the importance of consistent and systematic data processing methods with targeted image acquisition procedures for long-term monitoring.   (Remote Sensing, 07/01/2014)


Image time series processing software for agriculture monitoring

Scientists at the Flemish Institute for Technology Research (VITO) in Belgium and colleagues from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre have developed a stand-alone software package able to process time series of satellite images in near-real time. Data from remote sensing image series at high temporal and low spatial resolution can be used by the new SPIRITS software to assist in the monitoring of year-to-year variability in crop production and estimate the potential impact of detected anomalies on crop production and the sharing of this information with different audiences. The stand-alone toolbox was developed to produce clear and evidence-based information for crop production analysts and decision makers. JRC MARS, 09/01/2014)


A survey and analysis of the data requirements for stakeholders in African agriculture

UK’s DFID conducted a broad survey of key stakeholders in sustainable African agriculture to assess current and emerging trends in data collection, processing, and dissemination. A key focus of the study was to assess the alignment of stakeholders’ perceived data needs with areas of decision uncertainty. Only 36% of respondents stated data needs that were consistent with their stated uncertainties and only 15% showed that perceived needs, uncertainties, and data gathering efforts are aligned. Data for soils were the most frequently cited, followed by data for markets, climate, biodiversity and poverty. Recommendations for improving the collection and use of data in African agriculture include building comprehensive, centralised web-enabled GIS databases and developing awareness of the key decisions and what data is needed to support them.   (Columbia University, 07/10/2013)


Mapping the life cycle of crops

With the help of GIS and spatial analysis, Zhe Guo and colleagues from HarvestChoice and IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) designed a methodology to harmonise and geo-reference crop phenology data, resulting in the first generation of Crop Calendar products at the pixel scale (1 km2) for sub-Saharan Africa. Crop Calendars can be developed in one or two ways: through coarser, more traditional methods that rely on household surveys, country census data, and ground verifications; or via modern methods using remotely-sensed, time-series data. Both methods have their advantages and limitations, depending on the nature of the region and the quality of the information needed. A next step in this study is to evaluate Crop Calendar products derived from both ways and design a strategy to geo-reference and harmonise the two data. By combining phenology products derived from remote sensing and geo-referenced tabulation data, the quality of Crop Calendar products could substantially improve and better inform stakeholders from suppliers and growers to marketers and traders.   (HarvestChoice, 27/09/2013)


The potential benefits of GIS techniques in disease and pest control

This paper by IITA scientists presented at the 2010 International conference on Banana and Plantain in Africa illustrates the use of GIS tools on data collected to identify critical intervention areas to combat the spread of Banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW). In a survey covering the Great Lakes region, on-farm incidence of the disease  was  monitored  and  precise  GPS  coordinates  of  each  sampled  field  were recorded. This enabled accurate mapping of the disease and performing the various spatial  analyses,  permitting  an  understanding  of  the  geographical  distribution  of BXW  infection and the identification of target priority areas of interventions.  (IITA, 2010) 


The Wheat Data Interoperability working group released a draft case statement

The Wheat data interoperability working group is part of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) agricultural data interest group. This particular working group will be  watchful of working groups concerned with metadata, data harmonisation and data publishing. It will also interact with the Wheat Informatiopn System experts and  other plant projects such as TransPLANT, agINFRA which are built on standard technologies for data exchange and representation. The Wheat data interoperability  group will exploit existing collaboration mechanisms like CIARD to get as much as possible stakeholder involvement in the work.    (AIMS, 02/09/2013)  


Contemplating the Brazilian dilemma: abundant grain and inadequate storage

Peter Goldsmith, agricultural economist at the University of Illinois, comments on the shortage of storage facilities, particularly private and cooperative, in Brazil grain producing regions. He  says 'there is a 34% undercapacity of soybean storage, and the situation is aggravated by the rapidly increasing production of second-crop maize'. Using GIS software to map the  coordinates of commercial, cooperative and private grain storage facilities, his research quantified the shortage in storage and identified under-served areas to help planning policy locate  appropriate locations for new warehouses. The consequences of the shortage are losses and waste, mainly from the discarded grain left on the fields after harvest and from poor  transportation infrastructure. The nature of non-stop, year-round farming in the tropics also contributes to the loss.             (University of Illinois, 09/07/2013)


Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD)

The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) was established in Nairobi, Kenya in 1975 to provide quality Geo-Information and allied Information Technology products and services in environmental and resource management for sustainable development in member countries and beyond. RCMRD is an inter-governmental organization and currently has 18 contracting Member States in the Eastern and Southern Africa Regions.  (RCMRD, 2013)


Remote sensing and sustainable aquaculture in Africa

The authors review the current state of the science with respect to remote sensing applications for aquaculture, including site location, aquaculture facility mapping, market proximity analysis and associated roadway infrastructure, epizootic mitigation, meteorological event and flood early warning, environmental pollution monitoring, and aquatic ecosystem impact, primarily for catfish (Clarias spp.) and tilapia (Tilapia spp.; Oreochromis spp.), inter alia. The potential of technology transfer from the controlled environment aquaculture research facilities at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA to partnering institutions in Ghana and Kenya are explored. The potential for multi-sensor remote sensing deployment to support sustainable fish production in these environments and subsequently in other African countries is evaluated.  (Purdue University, 2007)


Remote Sensing Toolkit

The Remote Sensing Toolkit, developed by the Biophysical Remote Sensing group at the University of Queensland in Australia, is a free online program that lets you use remote sensing images (such as from satellites or aircraft) to map and monitor local or regional environmental features or processes. It includes a terrestrial, a marine and an atmospheric version of the toolkit and possible changes in these environments over time can be analysed. Users should be aware that the toolkit is an on-going project that is updated on occasion to enhance its features and help users with their analyses. The site includes an extensive introduction on the principles and the applications of remote sensing, including sensors, platforms, and processing methods.  (University of Queensland, 2013)


AGRHYMET Regional Centre

Recent AGRHYMET products include: Seasonal forecasts of rainfall, flow rates and agro-climatological advice for the rainy season of 2013 in West Africa, Cameroon and Chad; Satellite based rainfall estimates; and Notice on the agricultural and food prospects in the Sahel and in West Africa.  (AGRHYMET, 2013)


Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI) Association

The GSDI Association is an inclusive organisation of organisations, agencies, firms, and individuals from around the world. The purpose of the organisation is to promote international cooperation and collaboration in support of local, national and international spatial data infrastructure developments that will allow nations to better address social, economic, and environmental issues of pressing importance. The Association produces monthly regional newsletters focusing on GIS/RS developments in the Pacific, the Caribbean and Africa.  (GSDI, 2013)


Landsat 8 images available free of charge

Landsat represents the world's longest continuously acquired collection of space-based moderate-resolution land remote sensing data. Four decades of imagery provides a unique resource for those who work in agriculture, geology, forestry, regional planning, education, mapping, and global change research. On 30 May 2013, data from the Landsat 8 satellite (launched as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission – LDCM – on 11 February 2013) became available over the Internet free of charge. Data collected by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) onboard the spacecraft since 11 April 2013 are now available to download from EarthExplorerGloVis, and the LandsatLook Viewer. Learn what each of the 11 bands of Landsat 8 images are good for.  (USGS, 30/05/2013)


Free, interactive access to open weather data through aWhere

aWhere’s location intelligence platform enables integration of complex agricultural, environmental and public health data into local, actionable insight. A SaaS (Software as a service) business, aWhere’s platform currently offers free (after simple registration) access to weather data. It will expand by creating an interactive on-stop-shop to analyse, visualise and compare openly available data through charts, maps and tables. A comprehensive data library, which is being compiled from a variety of open data sources (FAO, USAID, among others) will allow for an in depth analysis of weather data.  (aWhere, 2013)


Soil Atlas of Africa

Produced by leading soil scientists from Europe and Africa, the Soil Atlas of Africa shows the changing nature of soil across the continent. It explains the origin and functions of soil, describes the different soil types that can be found in Africa and their relevance to both local and global issues. The atlas also discusses the principal threats to soil and the steps being taken to protect soil resources. It is a key resource for scientists, practitioners and policy and decision-makers. Informed decision making is currently limited by the scarcity of up to date data on the soil resources of Africa. The JRC, in collaboration with the FAO and African soil scientists, will launch a pan-African assessment on the state of soil resources at the forthcoming conference of the African Soil Science Society in Kenya (October 2013).  (EC Joint Research Centre, 01/05/2013)


Satellite remote sensing for an ecosystem approach to fisheries management

The document provides an overview of the most common satellite remote sensing (SRS) datasets available to fishery scientists and state-of-the-art data-processing methods, focusing on recently developed techniques for detecting meso-scale features such as eddies, fronts, filaments, and river plumes of major importance in productivity enhancement and associated fish aggregation. A comprehensive review of remotely sensed data applications in fisheries over the past three decades for investigating the relationships between oceanographic conditions and marine resources is provided, emphasizing how synoptic and information-rich SRS data have become instrumental in ecological analyses at community and ecosystem scales. Finally, SRS data, in conjunction with automated in situ data-acquisition systems, can provide the scientific community with a major source of information for ecosystem modelling, a key tool for implementing an ecosystems approach to fisheries management.  (Ifremer, 2013)


A new map of standardised terrestrial ecosystems of Africa

A set of new African continental maps was published in May 2013 by the Association of American Geographer (AAG) as a full-colour special supplement to the African Geographical Review. ‘A New Map of Standardized Terrestrial Ecosystems of Africa’ is the result of the efforts of a team of African and U.S. scientists, representing 37 experts from 18 countries who collaborated to produce the maps and ecosystems classification contained herein. To model the potential distribution of ecosystems, new continental datasets for several key physical environment datal ayers were developed at spatial and classification resolutions finer than existing similar data layers. A hierarchical vegetation classification was developed by African ecosystem scientists and vegetation geographers, who also provided sample locations of the newly classified vegetation units. The vegetation types and ecosystems were then mapped across the continent using a classification and regression tree inductive model, which predicted the potential distribution of vegetation types from a suite of biophysical environmental attributes including bioclimate region, biogeographic region, surficial lithology, landform, elevation and land cover.  (AAG, 01/05/2013)


The use of satellite data for crop yield gap analysis

Yield gap profiles, based on multiple years of satellite data, provide a useful measure of how persistent yield-controlling factors can help overcome spatial and temporal scaling issues that challenge simulation and experiment based analyses of yield gaps.This review discusses the use of remote sensing to measure the magnitude and causes of yield gaps. Two simple yet useful approaches that can be used as complements to each other are presented (those with and without explicit use of ancillary datasets) that measure the persistence of yield differences between fields, which in combination with maps of average yields can be used to direct further study of specific factors.    Furthermore, the author David Lobel of Stanford University, states that new commercial systems are delivering high spatial resolution (5m × 5m or finer) at costs that are approaching $1 per square km (or $0.01 per ha). In the next decade, it should be increasingly feasible to obtain multiple years of data for regions where field sizes have been too small to distinguish with traditional sensors like Landsat. Satellite data capable of discriminating crop yields on individual fields are more available and affordable than ever.  (Food Security Center Standford University and ScienceDirect, 03/2013)


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