OBSERVER: How Copernicus helps local and regional authorities

OBSERVER: How Copernicus helps local and regional authorities

OBSERVER: How Copernicus helps local and regional authorities

Thu, 19/01/2023 – 11:33

How is the ever-growing use of Copernicus data and products supporting local and regional authorities in their decision-making processes?

Data-powered decision making

Be it urban planning, civil protection, water management or environmental monitoring, public authorities face a wide range of common challenges. Thanks to their ability to deliver free and openly accessible near-real-time data globally, regionally and locally, Copernicus satellites and in situ observations offer tangible solutions for the improvement of the management of resources. Specifically tailored to meet user requirements, policymakers and public authorities are actively using Copernicus data, products and services. Each of the six Copernicus services (i.e., land, security, emergency, climate change, marine, atmosphere) provides continuous data and information which supports them with a wide range of applications covering all of society’s domains. By aiding local and regional authorities manage various thematic output areas (e.g., agriculture, healthcare, insurance, oil and gas, renewable energy, and disaster management), Copernicus’ potential is truly unmatched when it comes to the socio-economic, environmental and strategic impact it is able to wield on a regional and local scale.

Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Forestry

Agriculture, fisheries and forestry are key components of our biosphere and represent important economic sectors for most European regions. Taken together, agricultural land and forests represent around 85% of land cover in the European Union. However, resource exploitation and modes of sustainable food production are increasingly subject to threats linked to climate change and intensive exploitation practices. Nevertheless, authorities dispose of innovative Copernicus data-based solutions which help their regions tackle these challenges.

Improved monitoring of agricultural land in Castilla y León

The autonomous community of Castilla y León covers a large area made up of vast areas of cropland (mainly grain crops and arable land) and is surrounded by natural landscapes. While there exist land cover tools at a national and European level, they are not tailored to the needs of Castilla y León. Current projects consider arable land as a single class and group all crops together without delineating the varied agricultural landscapes or tracing their evolution year after year. In order to properly monitor its agricultural and natural land, the Agricultural and Livestock Department along with the Environmental Department of the autonomous community created a detailed crop and natural land map (see image below) fit to meet their particular needs. The methodology to produce such tailored land cover maps consists of using Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 to acquire continuous land cover imagery which is then processed and classified along with supporting data (e.g., elevation, precipitation, and vegetation height). The end product allows for detailed crop and forest identification at a species level. Operationally, the government of Castilla y León use the tool to monitor agricultural activities for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies related to specific crop payments, protected areas and the use of water in agricultural land. The tailored map also directly supports farmers and the food industry in the region who can use the information to determine crop rotations.

Crop and natural land classification map over the region of Castille and León for 2017.
Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data [2016]

Monitoring Forests in Occitanie, France

Pyrenean forests are of utmost importance to the economic development of the Occitanie region in France. It is therefore not surprising that this region has made the sustainable exploitation and management of this resource one of its key initiatives. One of the challenges in exploiting the Pyrenean forests stems from the fact that they are mostly in the hands of small private owners, which makes it difficult to monitor and manage at a regional level. In order for the region’s forests to be properly managed on the whole, environmental and economic indicators (i.e., tree species identification, logging detection and parcel accessibility assessment) need to be used by the region in its decision-making process. Copernicus-based applications provide information on such indicators covering more than 300,000 ha of the Pyrenean Forest. The identification of different tree species is done based on a sequence of Sentinel-2 images.  The two other indicators are addressed thanks to change-detection algorithms which compare Sentinel-2 images acquired in 2015 and 2017. This level of knowledge at a regional scale helps policy makers define a coherent planning policy which favours sustainable forest exploitation, for a healthy and dynamic industrial forestry sector that attracts investment and development projects.

Logging areas detected with Sentinel-2 images in a forest region of the Pyrenees.
Credit: Copernicus Service information 2017

Biodiversity and Environmental Protection

The preservation of the natural environment is essential to guarantee access to clean water, air, soil and food. However, factors such as population growth, pollution, invasive species, urbanisation and climate change are putting an enormous strain on natural ecosystems. In response to this phenomenon, the EU Green Deal, with its extensive environmental legislation (around 500 directives, regulations and decisions) aims at protecting nature and safeguarding the health and quality of life of EU citizens. One example of such legislation is the Habitats Directive implemented through the Natura 2000 programme, which ensures the conservation of a wide range of threatened and endemic animal and plant species. Nevertheless, the environment can only be safeguarded if these policies are effectively implemented. Local and regional authorities therefore play a significant role in environmental protection since they are responsible for establishing the rules, making investments and performing inspections.

Nature conservation: protecting Cretan lizards’ habitat

Monitoring the terrain parameters and vegetation in an animal’s environment is crucial to ensuring that the species thrives. This is the case for the Podarcis cretensis, a lizard species endemic of the protected area of Samaria National Park, Greece. In this respect, the high temporal frequency data of Sentinel-2 provide information on landscape dynamics, such as the vegetation growth and changes in landcover. This is complemented by Sentinel-1 data, which give access to extracted information like elevation, aspect and slope, but also insights into incoming solar radiation and terrain openness.

The endemic Cretan lizard, Podarcis cretensis is found mainly in West Crete

Climate, Water and Energy

Sustainable production practices are essential to ensuring continued access to essential resources such as water and energy, especially given the mounting pressure brough on by climate change. Copernicus data and products are already helping a broad range of regional and local water managers plan their activities as well as adapt their strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change. In particular, the operational service of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) offers state-of-the-art hydrological climate information and seasonal forecasts for the water sector, available through datasets and interactive web applications. One such application, the European hydrology and climate data explorer, provides easy access to a range of climate impact indicators for water quantity and quality, as well as relevant meteorological climate impact indicators.

Screenshot of the platform: European hydrology and climate data explorer

Monitoring water quality in Sardinia, Italy

The Mulargia dam on the Italian island of Sardinia, which serves as a source of drinking water for 700,000 people, is the most important reservoir in a complex network comprised of three river basins. To inform its operational monitoring and daily planning, the local multisector water network manager, Ente Acque Della Sardegna (ENAS), is using satellite data in the context of the EU funded SPACE-O project of which. SPACE-O combines state-of-the-art satellite technology and in situ monitoring with hydrological and water quality models, integrating local knowledge and datasets to improve the information base used for decision making. This is especially relevant, as indicators for water quality and quantity that cannot be covered on a spatial scale by ground-based systems are now obtainable from Copernicus satellite missions. Information from satellite images is combined with existing datasets to improve water forecasts and translated into a Decision Support IT tool including an early warning system.

Project overview factsheet

Climate change and exploitative production practices figure among the factors putting pressure on the environment and socio-economic systems our society depends on. Among the sectors most affected by these practices are agriculture, forestry, energy, health and security. Every year, the Copernicus programme generates petabytes of data which are used by public administrations to address such challenges and more efficiently and effectively manage their territories for the benefit of European citizens. For example, in the area of agriculture, EO applications have been used by local and regional governments to create seasonal mappings of cultivate areas, help with water management and bring support to subsidy control.  In this way, Copernicus data truly not only empowers local and regional authorities in their decision-making processes, but brings economic, social, environmental and strategic benefits to their community.


Thu, 19/01/2023 – 12:00

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