Environmental monitoring is the process of systematically sampling soil, water, air, and biota to study and observe the environment. It describes the activities that need to be done to monitor and characterize the quality of the environment.
It is used in the preparation of environmental impact assessments and in many places where human activities may have a harmful impact on the natural environment. This post talks about the roles and applications of remote sensing in environmental monitoring.
Advantages of environmental monitoring from space
There are lots of productive and human activities that need environmental monitoring solutions. This is as a result of environmental compliance issues or the licensing process for projects when seeking to obtain credit and investment or access to distinct markets. Some examples of activities that require environmental monitoring solutions include civil construction projects, mining and manufacturing, agricultural activities, utility services, and the extraction of natural resources.
There usually are two ways by which we can conduct environmental monitoring:
Manually collection of data in the field, which is later on analyzed in the office or laboratory. This method is a common practice among many projects and companies. However, it has a high cost and consumes lots of resources. Some other difficulties using this method would include:
- Intrusive manner of data collection, which requires interaction with the monitored environment
- Temporal representation and low spatial in most cases
- Certain areas of interest can be difficult to manually access
Using remote sensing has enormous potential and is already used widely for the development of environmental monitoring applications. It is done using images and data from satellite sensors.
Environmental Monitoring by Remote Sensing
Remote sensing for environmental monitoring is based on processing images and other data collected by satellite sensors. This is one of the best ways to directly and directly get information on the earth’s surface. With the recent advent of environmental information science, remote sensing data has been an integral part of lots of different research fields like environmental soil science, ecology, atmospheric science, soil contamination, environmental geology, water pollution, and volcanic phenomena.
Remote sensing application
Fighting wildfires by planning firefighter dispatch.
Wildfires cause lots of destruction to biomes, property, and even human life. That is why there is an urgent need to lessen and control their impact on the surrounding environment. Using data from satellites, firefighters can find fires with pinpoint accuracy. Satellites such as MODIS and AVHRR are best for these types of operations because of thermal and mid-infrared bands. Satellites can also use temporal data to trace the extent of wildfires.
Quantifying crop conditions and normalized difference vegetation
The world’s food supply is monitored using satellite imagery and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. NDVI indicates the health of plants based on how they reflect certain ranges of the EM spectrum. Healthy vegetation in agriculture can be detected using near-infrared radiation. Healthy vegetation absorbs blue and red light and reflects green light. However, unhealthy plants do the opposite. The visible green light is the chlorophyll created by crops during the process of photosynthesis. Here is a simple to calculate ndvi formula:
NDVI = NIR-RED/NIR+RED
Delineating and assessing the health of riparian zones to conserve lakes and rivers
Wooded areas along the water’s edge are known as riparian zones. They prevent nutrient runoff from rivers and lakes. Riparian zones need the highest spatial resolution due to their small width.
Detecting oil spills for marine life and environmental preservation
Oils spills have devastating effects on marine life and the neighboring environment. It needs to be resolved in record time so that the oil spill does not spread. Satellites are great tools to search and locate oil spills. They can determine the extent, direction, and rate of oil movement.
Keeping a watchful eye on biodiversity
The variety of plants and animals is located in a particular area. As sensors’ spectral and spatial resolutions keep on improving, remote sensing applications in biological diversity now have a significant role.
Monitoring air quality in the lower atmosphere
Pollution plays a significant role in lots of occupational diseases nowadays. One of the most common culprits of pollution is carbon monoxide, which is a colorless gas. However, it can be detected by MOPITT (Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere) on NASA’s Terra satellite. To measure the rising levels of infrared radiation, it uses a spectrometer.
Tracking hazard for better response and recovery
Remote sensing and GIS have become vital in detecting potential hazards. There can be a fast response for evacuation or even recovery when the disaster finally strikes using this data. It can also be used to measure the extent of the damage.
Inventorying potential landslides with interferometry
Every year, landslides cause the loss of billions of dollars in property damage and loss of life. Satellite images of slopes and areas with potential landslides can help to prevent and evacuate before the disaster. The images can detect the cause of the landslides, such as poor drainage, erosion, earthquakes, and more.
Tracking the great distance of migratory birds and inspecting their prevalence
Birds need to travel long distances to search for a good climate, food, and mating sites. One of the tools that can be used to determine the migration location of the birds is light-weight GPS telemetry. Remote sensing applications such as radar, multispectral, and LiDAR can show the properties of forests. This helps us know which areas in the forests are favorable habitats for birds.
Preventing the degradation and loss of wetland ecosystems
Wetlands have suddenly become a rare and precious resource because they help control floods, purify water, and improve shoreline stability. That is why lots of people have started using remote sensing to monitor wetlands.
As we have seen above, remote sensing has become vital in areas such as agriculture, ecology, forestry and conservation, climate change, and more. It helps to solve complex challenges and prevent disasters. The applications of remote sensing are endless, which will benefit human society and the environment.