Wageningen University and Research Centre

Copernicus: new horizons for European and global land monitoring

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How can we monitor Europe-wide farmland biodiversity so that it makes sense to farmers, is ecologically credible and still is affordable? Two new studies published in the Journal of Applied Ecology and the Journal of Environmental Management think it is possible. These studies were conducted by international groups of scientists including Alterra. Combining stakeholder priorities for biodiversity indicators with ecological significance, researchers find that a European farmland biodiversity monitoring scheme is feasible and requires only a modest share of the Common Agricultural Policy budget.

Recently, the achievements of the global, pan-European and local components of Copernicus were presented in Copenhagen at the closing event of GIO (GMES Initial Operation, since 2012 called Copernicus Initial Operations). After four years it was time to reflect on this achievements, to take stock of the lessons learnt and to look forward to the future of ‘full operations’ in land monitoring. The Copenhagen event consisted of several plenary and parallel sessions dealing with land monitoring and EU policies, high level and detailed results of monitoring programs and future developments and challenges.

Alterra is involved in monitoring programs as National Reference Centrum Land Cover for the European Environment Agency. “In this context we produced the Corine Land Cover 2012,” Gerard Hazeu says. “A unique database that covers 39 countries in Europe making comparison between countries possible regarding their land cover and the changes in land cover for more than 20 years. It has a wide variety of applications, underpinning various community policies in the domains of environment, but also agriculture, transport, spatial planning and so on.”

Also verification and enhancement of the various High Resolution Layers (HRLs) for the Netherlands was in the hands of Alterra. The pan-European HRLs provide information on specific land cover characteristics, such as imperviousness, tree cover density, forest type, grasslands, wetlands and permanent water bodies. It is complementary to the Corine Land Cover datasets. Next to the Corine Land Cover 2012 and the various HRLs various other global, local and in situ products and services were developed. The Urban Atlas for example provides pan-European comparable land use and land cover data covering a number of Functional Urban Areas (FUAs). Also the riparian zones and the Natura 2000 sites are mapped in more detail on basis of satellite imagery. On the website http://land.copernicus.eu/ all products and services can be viewed and downloaded.

Part of Copernicus is also Alterra’s involvement in the EAGLE (EIONET Action Group on Land Monitoring in Europe) workgroup. The objective of this workgroup is to elaborate a future-oriented conceptual solution that would support a European information capacity for land monitoring built on existing or future national data sources. The last year achievements were e.g. the development of a physical data model, a population and comparison tool, several geometric test cases to test the EAGLE database, an inventarisation of generalisation and aggregation rules. The initial results were presented at the Copenhagen event. In the near future a decision will be taken on how to progress. In the coming years the Copernicus programme will continue with the development of new services (Green Linear Features) and the continuation of existing services. Alterra is involved in the definition of the detailed specifications of those HRLs.

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