Landsat’s Role in Managing Ecosystems and Biodiversity
Our world is made of complex networks of living things and physical elements that constantly interact and affect each other. Such networks are known as “ecosystems.” Healthy and economically important ecosystems such as temperate forests, wetlands, grasslands, coastal zones, coral reefs, and rainforests all play roles in human life. For example, farm and rangeland ecosystems must be healthy to produce the grains and livestock on which we depend as a nation. Marine ecosystems depend on the health of land ecosystems, because coastal areas provide habitat needed to support the productivity and diversity of aquatic organisms. Landsat has brought valuable capabilities to ecosystem studies. Landsat instruments measure reflected light in visible and infrared wavelengths. Because plants reflect little visible light and a lot of infrared light when they are healthy, the measurement of both types of light simultaneously gives scientists a way to assess plant health and density over a landscape. Measurements are detailed enough while still covering a wide area that ecologists can expand their interpretations of local events and processes, such as an insect infestation in a specific forest, to a regional scale. This helps them to gauge the health of larger ecosystems. Because Landsat data are accurately mapped to reference points on the ground and adjusted for topographic relief, they can be integrated with other geographic data sets and models to explore more complex studies of ecosystems and biodiversity across space and time.
A delve into Landsat-based studies revealing the environmental impact of river mining, the decline in global lake water levels, and the risks of rising sea levels on coastal habitats. Plus, a sneak peek at what the future of the Landsat program holds with the introduction of Landsat Next.
As the world looks for sustainable solutions, a system tapping into Landsat data for water management has passed a critical test.
Using satellite data, including Landsat, Griffith University researchers found that less than 13 percent of the endangered greater gliders’ habitat in Queensland is protected.
When Landsat’s vast decades-long archive is combined with data from other instruments it can provide amazing insight into how our world is evolving with us and around us. Here are some of the ways Landsat and GEDI data are being harnessed to help us better understand the complex relationship between humanity and nature.
Safeguarding freshwater resources is crucial, and while scientists use a variety of ground-based techniques to gauge water quality, the Landsat program has provided water quality data from orbit for decades.
The Jane Goodall Institute has been working with NASA and using Earth science satellite imagery and data—including Landsat (NASA/USGS)—in its chimpanzee and forest conservation efforts in Africa, particularly the Gombe region.