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Open Landscape Partnership Platform

By GeoConnexion - 11th September 2013 - 10:24

A very high resolution (VHR) satellite imagery (usually defined as imagery with the spatial resolution of 1 meter or less of the Earth surface per image pixel), although became unclassified and publicly available already last decade, has still limited use by civil society.

Today everybody could find his/her home or a world famous memorial in Google Maps, plan a tourist trip or evening walk in big cities. However, the huge potential of VHR imagery stays highly underused and underestimated by civil society, by non-governmental, educational, and non-profit organizations.

Particularly environmental and nature conservation organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, use VHR satellite data sporadically and in a pretty limited amount. Although a wide range of possible applications for identifying valuable nature areas, studying habitats of endangered species, and monitoring of changes in the environment, as well as for land-use / land management practices, the environmental / nature conservation / land management sectors have limited interest and often even little awareness about abilities of the modern remote sensing.

As a result, either environmental NGOs or civil society in general make little share for VHR satellite data market, which still is controlled by military applications generating about 90% of the total market’s income. So they have never been regarded by VHR remote sensing satellite operators as remarkable potential consumers. The interests and needs of civil society are not taken into account while planning new VHR missions or estimating potential markets for them.

To promote VHR satellite data for environmental and education organizations Scanex Research and Development Center, Transparent World (TW), and DigitalGlobe, Inc. (DG) founded the Open Landscape Partnership Platform – a worldwide initiative creating a vibrant global community of practice that would significantly expand competent demand for affordable open access to very high spatial and temporal resolution satellite data that could be suitable for wide-ranging, sustained non-profit use (fig. 1).

The initiative’s objective is strengthening social and environmental accountability, transparency and sustainability in land-use, land/natural resource management, and conservation practices in and around globally significant critical natural habitats and conservation landscapes. The objective will be reached by piloting and scaling up a partnership platform and related tools supporting open access to high-resolution satellite data and its utilization, with focus on improved capacity of local land management agencies, universities and civil society.

The Platform will feature an innovative crowd-mapping approach centered around a significant infusion of the very high-resolution (0.5 m) satellite data (hundreds of thousands of square kilometers) that will be provided by Scanex as the Platform’s partner, a major satellite data service provider. It will make the data, and related training support, available for free (open-license) crowd-mapping applications by local universities and land management organizations (such as national parks, municipalities, spatial planning boards, forest and plantation managers, etc.) in client countries that would join in project consortia for mapping and monitoring of critical landscapes and habitats. Engagement of local student groups will ensure testing and maturation of innovative ideas and their further inclusion in the localized training and capacity building process. Civil society and international partners will be strongly encouraged to participate in the project consortia. Crowd-mapping projects will be selected through several competition tranches on a demand-driven basis (about 4-5 projects per year, fig. 2).

The initiative started in collaboration with University Geoportals Consortium (Unigeo), World Bank (WB), World Resources Institute (WRI), and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). WRI will launch in 2013 the second phase of its Global Forest Watch program (GFW 2.0), which, alongside with the on-going work of the World Bank and its partners on the Global Tiger Recovery Program and a similar program on snow leopard habitat conservation, will become one of the piloting vehicles for the partnership in close collaboration with ScanEx, Open Parks Network (OPN) of Clemson University, Open Street Mapping (OSM) Consortium, and other partners. The Platform is open for various participants of the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF), Global Forest Watch 2.0 (GFW 2.0), Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), Global Snow Leopard Initiative, and Save Our Species (SOS) program. Other interested partners are encouraged to join the Platform.

The main Platform’s outcome will be a proof of concept and scaling up of the crowd-mapping coalition approach and citizen monitoring of land-use in fragile landscapes and critical habitats, contributing to the increased transparency in land management and the reduction of ‘habitat poaching’ and related land-use conflicts. The expected outputs will include crowd-mapping coalitions/consortia equipped with, and trained in the use of, high-resolution satellite data in applications for a subset of critical conservation landscapes in several regions/countries. Examples of specific practical results of the crowd-mapping based on high-resolution satellite data will include target critical habitat surveys and updated threat assessments/monitoring, public review and update of biodiversity-friendly zoning and land management options for decision-makers, plans for more effective habitat protection against wild fires and other negative impacts.

The Platform’s pilot phase (September 2013-August 2014) will help establish the proof-of-concept and test the crowd-mapping platform in a critical mass of landscapes and habitats using the data donated by Scanex. It will build and analyze a geographically and thematically diverse portfolio of crowd-mapping projects for critical landscapes and conservation hotspots to be implemented by the Platform’s subscribers.

Scanex is providing an initial data grant of 2.25 million square kilometers (0.87 million square miles) of WorldView-2 satellite imagery acquired from DigitalGlobe under special license terms for non-profit environmental use. Transparent World is operating the Platform and its portal as per the agreement between DigitalGlobe and Scanex.

Subscribers to the Platform’s pilot phase will get free (no cost) password-protected web access to available WorldView-2 satellite imagery for the stated Area of Interest, online mapping tools, and designated server space. Subscribers will be able to use these assets to develop and document their own crowd-mapping projects of critical landscapes and hotspots. Subscribers will have to agree to contribute the documented results of their projects (including web maps) to the Platform’s project library that would be publicly available through an online forum for review, analysis and discussion by peer practitioners.

A global competition of submitted projects will be organized by the Platform’s user committee in April-June 2014 to identify, show-case, and promote the most effective and scalable crowd-mapping applications and solutions.

The existing and targeted donors of the Global Forest Watch and Global Tiger Recovery Program (including USAID, UK Defra, KfW, JICA, AusAID, EC, as well as IDA, GEF and other multilateral funders of the related biodiversity, wildlife and forestry projects) will be expected to support the on-the-ground project consortia work in targeted landscapes. Additional support from private sector (data providers) will be leveraged with the help of the Open Street Mapping Consortium and the World Bank’s existing Earth Observation partnership with the European Space Agency.

After completion of the pilot three-year phase, the Partnership will continue on the basis of funding of various projects and programs that the crowd-mapping process will have catalyzed/leveraged, including a number of World Bank and GEF funded biodiversity, forestry and rural development projects.

You will be able to learn more detailed information about Open Landscape Partnership Platform at the 6th International Conference "Earth from Space - the Most Effective Solutions", which is to be held on October 1-3, 2013 in the Moscow region "Vatutinki" resort hotel, Russia. As of today, more than 200 participants have already registered, representing 23 world countries, including Russia , Belarus, Kazakhstan , Ukraine, Latvia , the United States , Britain, Japan, South Korea, Spain and other countries. More than half of the participants are representatives of the public, educational and commercial organizations. September 15 is the deadline for registration of participants to the conference (!

Fig. 1. - Find imagery on our map!
Fig. 2. A palm plantation and a clear cut for the new plantaion in the Pakchan National Reserve, Maynmar. WorldView-2, 12.06.2012, resolution 0.5 m

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