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Changes in arid Mediterranean ecosystems on the long term through earth observation


The objective of the project is to develop a comprehensive method for monitoring desertification in the south of the Mediterranean basin, which provides information useful for the operational management of arid lands and which involves all the affected countries.
The main purpose is to discriminate, at local scale, (and after elimination of seasonal fluctuations) areas where soil and vegetation are degrading, where they are stable, where they are recovering (after restoration action has been taken, e.g.). In addition, the understanding of the relationships between those changes and land use will be a major objective.
This aim is an answer to the need for reliable and detailed data on the condition and evolution of arid zones as has been strongly expressed by officials in charge of environmental policies. Desertification in the northern shore of the Mediterranean is already a concern at the European level. The southern shore is far more affected (see map on front cover) because of the dryer climate, the inherent fragility of the ecosystems and high demographic pressure ; a strong political will to tackle this phenomenon exists at national and international levels (confer the international Convention to Combat Desertification).
Expected Outcome

Expected results are :
1. remotely sensed indicators of ecological changes for the production of maps suited to land management
2. assessment of ecological changes over the last 20 years
3. GIS with ecologically homogeneous zones of Northern Africa
4. change interpretation according to land use and experimental modelling of change forecast
5. definition of a comprehensive processing chain dedicated to land management, which will be able to accommodate future enhancements (new types of data and algorithms)
The objectives and the final outputs of this project meet the priorities of the INCO-DC programme. There is a strong regional dimension in the project which provides the opportunity for the southern countries to reinforce their scientific communities and which enhances links with other European research programs. The involvement of young scientists (Ph.D.s and post-docs) will increase the scientific potential of each team.
The general concept is to integrate all available data on the studied environments. This will include data collected on the ground as well as data acquired by Earth Observation programmes. The scientific approach relies heavily on the experience and results already gained by different partners. This approach includes the identification of ground indicators of local ecological changes (degraded condition, stable, restored,...) the determination of those that can be remotely sensed, the selection of the most adequate high resolution satellite data, the refinement and the design of processing algorithms and data output. This 'bottom-up' approach will then be applied to historical records of data to identify long term changes. These local changes will be analysed in a regional eco-climatic context using medium resolution imagery acquired from the NOAA-AVHRR. Combining this results with socio-economic data will allow the recognition of changes in relation to land use. Future scenarios will be derived from an experiment on modelling changes.
The activities over the three years of the project are divided in several main components :
a) data and information inventory,
b) local ecological changes detection,
c) change assessment in the regional and global context,
d) human dimension of the changes,
e) analysis and interpretation of the changes.
In addition to the start-up and final seminars, two joint field experiments, one workshop on data processing, and a mid-term seminar with the end users will allow regular interaction between the partners.


Commission of the European Communities
Via E. Fermi 1
21020 Ispra

Participants (6)

Route De La Marsa Km9
1080 Tunis
Centre de Recherche Scientifiques et Techniques sur les Zones Arides

16000 Alger
Rue La Fayette 213
97492 Sainte-clotilde
Via Giovanni Caproni 8
50145 Firenze
National Authority for Remote Sensing& Space Sciences
23,Joseph Brows Tito Street 23
11511 Cairo
Office Régional de Mise en Valeur Agricole de Ouarzazate

45000 Ouarzazate