Desertification monitoring by remote sensing

Issue 12 46 pp. • Published in March 2019

Author(s): Escadafal Richard, Begni Gérard, Billet Philippe, Bonnet Bernard, Boulet Gilles, Hiernaux Pierre, Travi Yves

In 2016, roughly a hundred civil remote sensing satellites were monitoring the Earth from space. These satellites collect data—usually in image form—on the entire Earth’s surface, including the most remote and inaccessible areas. They accomplish this task regularly at reasonable cost, thus allowing users to measure, model and monitor the evolution of the environment on different spatiotemporal scales. Remote sensing (all technology and techniques that produce satellite or aerial images) has a broad range of applications in different fields, such as meteorology, environmental science and urbanism.

In the desertification setting, remote sensing provides critical support to help gain insight into the mechanisms involved in this phenomenon. The vast amount of local to global information produced enables scientists to analyse the effects of desertification and measure the stabilization or regression trends over time. Early warning systems and integration of the data in models can even help predict these trends. This information is essential for the development of scenarios and forecasts for various periods, in turn facilitating short-term decision making and the formulation of medium- and long-term strategies to ensure sustainable development.

This Dossier begins with a presentation of a few physics concepts that are essential for understanding remote sensing, and a description of the main parameters that can be monitored by satellite. Several recent examples regarding the various possible uses of satellite images for the purpose of combating desertification are then proposed. The Dossier concludes by offering a guide on practical ways to advance in remote sensing via freeware and satellite images provided free of charge by French, European, and American space agencies.

    Escadafal Richard

    Escadafal Richard

    Chair of CSFD. Senior scientist IRD at CESBIO, Toulouse (France)

    Begni Gérard

    Begni Gérard

    CNES; Earth Environnement & Climate – Senior Scientist

    Billet Philippe

    Billet Philippe

    Professor in Public Law, Faculty of Law, Jean Moulin (...)

    Bonnet Bernard

    Bonnet Bernard

    Livestock Scientist, IRAM (France)

    Boulet Gilles

    Boulet Gilles

    Senior IRD scientist at CESBI, ecohydrology and remote sensing

    Hiernaux Pierre

    Hiernaux Pierre

    Agro-ecologist, retired, Caylus, France

    Travi Yves

    Travi Yves

    Emeritus Professor & Hydrogeologist, Avignon (...)

Support

Editing, production and distribution of Les dossiers thématiques du CSFD are fully supported by this Committee thanks to the support of relevant French Ministries and AFD (French Development Agency).

  • Ministère de l'Education nationale, de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche
  • Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Développement international
  • Ministère de la Transition écologique et solidaire
  • Agence Française de Développement (AFD)

Opinions

The opinions expressed in these reports are endorsed by the Committee.

Contact

CSFD
Comité Scientifique Français de la Désertification
Agropolis International
1000 avenue Agropolis
F-34394 Montpellier CEDEX 5 •  France
Tel.: +33 (0)4 67 04 75 73• email: csfd@agropolis.fr

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Dossiers

thématiques du CSFD

Mankind is now confronted with an issue of worldwide concern, i.e. desertification, which is both a natural phenomenon and a process induced by human activities. Our planet and natural ecosystems have never been so degraded by our presence. Long considered as a local problem, desertification is now a global issue of concern to all of us, including scientists, decision makers, citizens from both developed and developing countries. Within this setting, it is urgent to boost the awareness of civil society to convince it to get involved. People must first be given the elements necessary to better understand the desertification phenomenon and the concerns. Everyone should have access to relevant scientific knowledge in a readily understandable language and format.

Within this scope, the French Scientific Committee on Desertification (CSFD) has decided to launch a series entitled Les dossiers thématiques du CSFD, which is designed to provide sound scientific information on desertification, its implications and stakes. This series is intended for policy makers and advisers from developed and developing countries, in addition to the general public and scientific journalists involved in development and the environment. It also aims at providing teachers, trainers and trainees with additional information on various associated disciplinary fields. Lastly, it endeavours to help disseminate knowledge on the combat against desertification, land degradation, and poverty to stakeholders such as representatives of professional, nongovernmental, and international solidarity organisations.

These Dossiers are devoted to different themes such as global public goods, remote sensing, wind erosion, agroecology, pastoralism, etc, in order to take stock of current knowledge on these various subjects. The goal is also to outline debates around new ideas and concepts, including controversial issues; to expound widely used methodologies and results derived from a number of projects; and lastly to supply operational and academic references, addresses and useful websites. These Dossiers are to be broadly circulated, especially within the countries most affected by desertification, by email, through our website, and in print. Your feedback and suggestions will be much appreciated!

Scientific editing and iconography: Isabelle Amsallem, Agropolis Productions
Design and production: Olivier Piau, Agropolis Productions