Atkins' innovation to survey wetlands from space
7 June 2007, News release from Atkins
Atkins has successfully used satellite imagery to study the impacts of changing water levels at ecologically valuable sites.
Such an assessment usually requires the collation and analysis of substantial amounts of environmental data, either provided by routine monitoring networks, project-specific client-collected observations or via a monitoring network designed and installed by Atkins.
We are frequently asked to assess environmental impacts on sites designated for their ecological quality. Such analysis can be lengthy and costly. In certain circumstances, remotely sensed data can be used to provide comprehensive wide-area datasets that reduce both the time and expense spent collecting data.
As part of one such project undertaken for the Environment Agency, Atkins recently investigated the ability of high-resolution satellite imagery to provide the required information. To understand the impacts of changing the water levels on an area of wetland, a baseline vegetation survey was required. The options were either to have ecological specialists survey the site over a period of weeks, or to use satellite imagery and information from hydrologists - who know the area - to classify the entire site in one go.
Remote sensing offered a rapid and cost effective solution and allowed eight types of land cover to be mapped. All remotely sensed imagery compromises between spatial, spectral and temporal resolutions. This means that some sensors collect data for smaller features on the Earth's surface; some 'see' beyond the human visible range; and some 'look at' the same location very frequently.
No single sensor grouping is perfect for all three and usually a combination of sensor derived data is required. However, the IKONOS satellite sensor image used in this example has adequate settings for all three resolutions and was used to map differences across the surface of the site.
Thus, a valuable additional data source has enabled the production of a map of vegetation type for the entire site. Such vegetation community maps provide a valuable baseline tool for future species level surveys, and this map will drive further policy and management decisions, help monitor vegetation change and aid the explanation of potential water level options.
Key Expert: Alastair Graham, Consultant, ATKINS, Oxford 01865 734211 firstname.lastname@example.org