Remote Sensing and GIS


Four applications of Remote Sensing and GIS are explained below.

Ecosystem Monitoring

Ecosystems provide a network of services to communities that help sustain livelihoods. Integration of earth observation data with GIS makes it possible to quantify the supplies and demands of ecosystem services and provide reliable data for monitoring and assessing ecosystem services at a local, national and regional scale. The focus of ecosystem monitoring includes the use of cutting-edge geospatial technologies to monitor ecosystem functions and services, the development of customized tools for assessing ecosystem vulnerability, and the development of adaptation strategies to promote sustainable ecosystem management in the context of climate change. Areas of work under this topic include habitat mapping; monitoring of biodiversity and land cover change; biomass estimation and greenhouse gas inventory; use of multi-scale carbon mitigation tools; development of ecosystem adaptation strategies at different scales and levels; scenario development for sustainable forest resources management; and research into the effect of natural and human disturbances on ecosystem.

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Water resource assessment and monitoring

Around 1.3 billion people rely on the 10 large transboundary river systems that traverse the Hindu Kush Himalayas. Monitoring the state of these water resources and their change over time is integral to the development of effective strategies for sustainable water resources management, and remote sensing data can play a crucial role in the process. For instance, land and climatic data is very important for developing hydrological models, including model formulation, validation, and application. But incorrect specification of land surface parameters can result in significant model error. Traditionally, data for hydrological variables has been acquired for point locations – e.g., hydrological and weather stations -- and treated as representative of a large region. But for complex territory like the HKH, with its highly variable land cover and topography, point-data are less successful in characterizing the area. This is particularly true when point stations are very far apart. Remote sensing data to generate land-surface characterizations is useful in filling the data gaps in spatial information. Geospatial solutions are used to work with the river basin programme to develop seamless data on land surface parameters for the HKH region to improve hydrological models. Research is also conducted to develop an integrated decision-support system to analyze the region’s Water-Food-energy nexus and develop balanced strategies for sustainable water resources management.

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Cryosphere monitoring

The cryosphere is water on the earth’s surface and subsurface in its frozen state, including glaciers, snow cover, and permafrost. It’s an integral part of the global climate system. The Himalayas make up the largest cryosphere region outside the poles and are highly sensitive to climate change, but the lack of long-term data for this region undermines efforts to develop policies and programs to promote the rational and sustainable use of these water resources. ICIMOD is involved in assessments of the Himalayan cryosphere, working to devise ways and means to bridge the information gap. The Geospatial Solution Team works with the ICIMOD Cryosphere Programme to leverage Earth Observation GIS capacities to monitor the state of the cryosphere across the HKH region, including mapping of snow cover, and snow water equivalents, and monitoring temporal changes in glaciated area and water volume.

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Disaster risk management

The Hindu Kush Himalayas have been experiencing an increased frequency of natural disasters such as landslides, avalanches, floods, flash floods, glacial lake outburst floods, debris flows, wildfires and earthquakes. Scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests that climate change is contributing to the increasing frequency and magnitude of most of these events. There is a general lack of knowledge on the availability and use of space-based information for disaster management. Geospatial technology can be put to use to assist policymakers and managers in managing risks, and disasters and emergency management by instituting disaster sensitive planning and timely response. Remote sensing and GIS provides a spatial framework to integrated relevant data layers to develop monitoring tool to identify hotspot areas, and decision support system that help in effective preparedness, quick response and efficient mobilization of resources for recovery. ICIMOD’s engagement and interest in disaster risk management lies in promoting use and mainstreaming of information in decision making through piloting information system, mapping and assessment of hazard, vulnerability and risk at multi-levels, and rapid response mapping support. Special focus is given to how to integrate space technology with IT and telecommunication infrastructure to deliver disaster information at the community level and enable two-way communication between communities and disaster managers for effective response.

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