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Environmental Monitoring – remote sensing review

1 November 2022

Remote sensing data is often applied to assist with environmental monitoring. However, the pace of development makes it challenging to decipher if the new sensor or technique can be used successfully beyond a small study area. A key requirement of many agencies is to monitor or report progress against environmental baselines and assist with the prioritisation of monitoring efforts.

This article presents a review of remotely sensed technologies and how they can be applied to support the requirements for environmental monitoring under New Zealand’s Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). The project was commissioned by the Northland Regional Council (NRC) and involved experts from GNS Science and Indufor. The same team also collaborated on the EnviroSatTools initiative – a project working with Regional Councils to develop remotely sensed monitoring applications.

The aim was to highlight new developments in remote sensing and processing techniques and identify their potential for streamlining monitoring processes. Like many councils, NRC recognises that the current monitoring obligations represent a substantial challenge. Improving the efficiency of monitoring workflows that result in beneficial environmental outcomes is a key area of interest for Regional Councils.

The review was divided into four key environmental domains: land, freshwater, ocean/coastal, and climate/air. The freshwater, air and coastal domains, which included topics such as water quality measurement, flood extent mapping, sea level rise and air pollution, respectively, were collated by the domain experts at GNS Science.

GNS designed a wiki page to allow the review findings to be accessed. This was circulated by NRC to other regional councils. The review provided the opportunity to highlight internally developed solutions and emerging monitoring techniques.

For each domain area, current and potential future applications were explored, with commentary on the appropriateness of the given technique. At the same time, any benefits or potential limitations were documented. In addition, a review of available satellite imaging platforms, both open access and commercial, was undertaken.

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Source: Indufor

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