Forest agriculture and environment in the spatial sciences

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Forest Agriculture and Environment in the Spatial Sciences (FORAGES)

The Department of Natural Resources comprises three knowledge clusters: Agriculture, Environment and Forestry with a focus on biodiversity, food security and forest biomass. The mission is the sustainable management and meeting of societal needs from the green cover (biosphere) by applying and developing geo-information, earth observation and spatiotemporal analytical tools. Spatial information is used to assess, monitor, plan and manage natural resources. Cross-cutting topics include human impacts as well as technology applications including hyperspectral remote sensing, physical modelling, infrastructure (cloud computing, wireless etc.) and sensor networks. NRS is active in spatial environmental health as well as natural resource security.

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    The research of the Department of Natural Resources centers on: The sustainable management and meeting of societal needs from the green cover (biosphere) by applying and developing geo-information, earth observation and spatio-temporal analytical tools. The Department uses earth observation data and spatial information in combination with systems modelling, geo-information science (GIS) and remote sensing for the assessment, monitoring, planning and management of natural resources, for their sustainable use, development and restoration under global change.

    Global change, caused by growing population densities and rising economic production levels, is increasingly placing pressure on scarce land resources. Especially in developing countries, local and global disturbance do not always contribute to sustainable development. Consequently, in the Department’s activities, there is an implicit focus on the role of people in the landscape. Adequate solutions to environmental problems such as biodiversity loss, deforestation, overgrazing, landscape fragmentation, climate change, and the depletion and contamination of land and water resources depend on integrated insight and improved management. Planners, managers, policy-makers and researchers need to understand the complexity of the factors involved and to be able to collaborate across disciplines. Geo-information science (GIS) and remote sensing play a central role in the search for clear analyses and viable policies. Skills in this field continue to be in demand by industry, government and NGOs.

    The NRS Department develops new methods in GIS and RS in order to disentangle complex relationships in the natural world. In particular, we focus on:

    • the innovative use of remote sensing (emphasizing imagery from new sensors including radar, hyperspectral, LIDAR, hyper-temporal and high spatial resolution imagery and where appropriate, ‘historical’ data sets),
    • innovative algorithms for mapping and monitoring land cover (hyperspectral, hyper-temporal, Bayesian, time and space analysis (wavelet, Fourier), radiative transfer models, crop production modeling),
    • modeling the physical environment and human interactions, in support of decision making. For example, food security issues, droughts, migration issues (mainly at the species level), adaptation mechanisms/options (how do systems cope with changes?), mitigation and adaptation mechanisms/options (including for example REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) and CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) are the main focus.

    In other words, the NRS department focuses on the understanding and projecting, of land surface processes using a systems approach.

    Topics with a special interest include:

    1. monitoring and modelling of biodiversity and ecosystems,
    2. monitoring and modelling of crop conditions,
    3. biogeophysical parameters,
    4. carbon accounting,
    5. forest monitoring,
    6. environmental health, and
    7. strategic environmental assessment and environmental impact assessment.

    The Department of Natural Resources comprises three knowledge clusters: Forestry, Agriculture, and Environment. Cross-cutting topics include the adaptation and mitigation of impacts caused by increasing human pressure and economic production, as well as ‘high technology’ applications including hyperspectral remote sensing, physical modelling, geo-infrastructure (cloud computing, wireless etc.) as well as wildlife tracking and sensor networks. NRS complements these activities with initiatives in spatial environmental health as well as security and forensics in natural resource management. Scientific activities in the Department are centered on remote sensing and geographic information.

    NRS research will tackle the issue of integrating data from different sensors (or derived products) into various process-based environmental, forest, and agricultural models, in order to monitor attributes and processes such as biodiversity, food production and biomass. In turn, these fused data sets will be linked to physically based models, to allow us to generalize results in space and time, and not be tied to empirical data with its inherent challenges.

    The NRS department works on temporal analyses in the framework of global change research. A major challenge is to meet the demands (food and other consumption) of a growing population while conserving the ecological functions and biodiversity of the world’s ecosystem. To understand the current status and trends in the earth system, analyses that look back in time are of major importance in this respect. Such analyses are also required within international agreements, such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) and CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity).

    To boost the impact of our research and find most appropriate applications for the methods and models that we develop we will continue to focus on various issues related to environmental assessment (Strategic Environmental Assessment, Environmental Impact Assessment and Sustainability Assessment) as a framework to communicate with decision and policy makers and to improve the application of spatial and modeling tools with various stakeholders and experts.

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