How can environmental treaties that apply across our entire planet be
effectively monitored and enforced, from boreal forests to African deserts? The
sheer scale of the challenge makes it a daunting prospect, at least from down
here on Earth.

Earth Observation satellites provide global information-rich views of the state
of our planet. And ESA is pioneering the application of space data to
international conventions through the TESEO (Treaty Enforcement Services using
Earth Observation) initiative. From this week the Agency has available a CD-Rom
introductory guide to what Earth Observation data is available and how it can be
utilised by those who need it.

Titled ‘Environmental Conventions and Observation from Space’, the multimedia
CD-Rom is targeted at anyone in the business of protecting the environment, from
top-level national policy makers to statutory bodies tasked with reporting
ecological data, conservation NGOs in search of up-to-date information, down to
wetland or forest managers seeking ways to perform their duties more effectively.

There have been numerous international treaties signed during the last 20 years,
all of them obliging the signatories in some way to monitor and assess the
environment. The CD-Rom highlights three of them — the 1971 Ramsar Convention
on Wetlands, the 1992 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework on Climate
Change, and the 1996 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification — and
explains how Earth Observation data can be used to support their implementation.

Satellites observing resources under threat

Wetlands are an important environmental resource under threat — it is estimated
that half the world’s wetlands were lost in the 20th century — but TESEO
analysis shows Earth Observation is a way both to keep track of wetlands
globally as well as increase scientific knowledge of individual wetland areas
(plus surrounding water basins potentially extending across millions of
hectares) and more efficiently manage them. Radar imaging carried out by ESA’s
ERS and Envisat spacecraft is proven to be a particularly effective way of
detecting open water and flooded vegetation.

Another TESEO project examined issues arising from Kyoto. Helping Italy to meet
its Kyoto requirements, an Earth Observation survey of national forest cover
change over ten years has been carried out (forests are an important store of
carbon). In West Borneo the planting of a test tree plantation that serves as a
carbon ‘sink’ has been verified and certified by using data from space.

For desertification, another TESEO project has established how Earth Observation
provides continuous data — factors such as temperature, rainfall,
evapotranspiration, land cover and land use — on global, regional and local
scales. Information products can be used to highlight the areas most at risk.
And by measuring local ground subsidence down to a few centimetres, satellites
can even help predict which desert aquifers are running dry.

The TESEO initiative is paving the way for the GMES (Global Monitoring for
Environment and Security) joint undertaking with the European Commission. GMES
is the first structured open dialogue between ESA’s Earth Observation
Directorate, the European Community, and international communities responsible
for defining and implementing global environmental conventions.

For more information on TESEO see:

The CD-Rom is available on request to

Related links



* Ramsar Convention

* UN Convention on Climate Change

* United Convention to Combat Desertification


[Image 1:]
International efforts to combat desertification can be supported by satellites.

[Image 2:]
Wetlands are an important ecological resource under threat.

[Image 3:]
This image is the very first MERIS view of Italy. The Etna volcano, not active
at the time the image was acquired, is partially masked by clouds in northern
Sicily. The green colour of the water along the southern coast of Sicily is due
to the coastal erosion by water currents in the Strait of Sicily. Suspended
matter taken away from the beaches is visible in the long plume extending along
the southeast edge of the island. Several Italian cities are clearly visible,
including Rome, Milan, Venice and Bologna.

Technical Information:

Instrument: MEdium Resolution Imaging Instrument (MERIS)
Date of Acquisition: 21 March 2002
Orbit number: 305
Instrument features: Full resolution image (300-meter resolution)

Credits: ESA