Satellites can help us avoid the potential devastating consequences of misusing wetlands, which are havens of biodiversity and have important ecological, hydrological and economic value.
Wetlands have an inestimable ecological value as habitat for various wild animals such as migratory birds. They have an important hydrological value through their natural drainage systems, which can also act as a protection dam to cope with droughts and excessive water during the rainy seasons such as floods.¨Wetlands also are an economic value for water resource development, fishery industry and ecological tourism, as well as a social value such as poverty eradication through the supply of water and food to local population.
In recent years, the use of satellite Earth observations with innovative geospatial analysis has proved to be a key tool and unique information source to support the environmental community in different application domains, including wetlands conservation and management.
The further development of internationally coordinated actions for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands came into focus last week at the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP-11) of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands held in Bucharest, Romania. Part of the Ramsar strategic plan is to develop a Global Wetlands Observing System (GWOS) that would allow an increase in the accessibility of data and information on wetlands and reporting on changes in wetlands status worldwide.
In response, the European Space Agency launched the GlobWetland II project as a GWOS regional pilot project in the southern Mediterranean basin. The project's principal objective was to develop software that can be used by all Ramsar parties to assess and monitor their wetlands with satellite images.
Image courtesy of GlobWetland II project, Google Earth.