RAPP Newsletter 4 – December 2016


Dear RAPP colleagues,

We are pleased to present Newsletter #4 of GEOGLAM RAPP (www.geo-rapp.org) in a new format, and we hope you enjoy it!
The online visualiser “RAPP Map” is now ‘live” and has seen some further improvements, such as a 500m resolution land-cover layer. RAPP collaborators are also progressing vegetation cover validation, and the team continues to strengthen its linkages with the Space community via CEOS, as highlighted at their 30th Plenary in Brisbane, through its GEOGLAM working group.

Several other activities highlighted below, include:

  • Growing the RAPP Community of practice
  • Improving RAPP Map: updates
  • Vegetation cover anomaly product: latest  (November)
  • National Pilot sites – ongoing validation work
  • Focus on… the NRM Spatial Hub (Australian collaboration)
  • Communication Activities
  • Key events planned for RAPP in 2017

Community-of-Practice and workshops

International activities for RAPP: CEOS Plenary

30th CEOS Plenary – GEOGLAM side-meeting: highlight of RAPP
Brisbane, Australia, 31st October-2 November 2016

CSIRO chaired the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) in 2016. During the last CEOS Plenary the CEOS GEOGLAM ad-hoc working group decided to highlight RAPP (led by CSIRO), at its GEOGLAM side-meeting on Monday 31st October.

Group photo - 30th CEOS Plenary attendees in Brisbane, Nov 2016

Group photo – 30th CEOS Plenary attendees in Brisbane, Nov 2016

Several key Australian partners attended the meeting, including Mike Grundy, Cecile Godde, Juan Guerschman, Alex Held and Flora Kerblat (all from CSIRO), and also Peter Scarth (University of Queensland), Brad Doorn (NASA – co lead of the GEOGLAM Ad hoc Working Group), Brian Killough (NASA – CEOS DataCube), Tapan Misra (ISRO) and Caiying Wei (NSMC/CMA).

Here, the status of RAPP’s online mapping tool was reviewed, the biggest message from GEOGLAM to CEOS space agencies was around the importance of production standard products to make it easier for end-users of this data. The meeting also covered requirements for additional satellite data types (e.g. radar, hyperspectral) for use by GEOGLAM and RAPP, and which agencies may be able to support these data needs. At present, these new data types remain in the research domain, but as free and open data supply grows, the use of such data will grow.

While GEOGLAM crops is driven largely by markets and production drivers, rangelands monitoring under RAPP, also includes elements of sustainability and environmental monitoring (e.g. erosion potential, land degradation etc.), as well as aspects of livestock productivity modelling.

Strategies for further community engagement was discuss try and secure the resources that can also make RAPP sustainable in the long term. Finally, the team expressed the need to get some feedback from the GEOGLAM Advisory Committee on drivers and stakeholders that are driving the growth of RAPP.

This session was also the occasion for Brian Killough to showcase a Data Cube demo project for RAPP, using the Colombia pilot site. He attempted to identify the niche for the Data Cube within GEOGLAM, and in particular RAPP, which he felt could include wide-area, large volume time series analyses at higher resolutions. The incorporation of an option to generate fractional cover products into the CEOS Data Cube was also discussed. See basic concept of the CEOS DataCube here.

At the Plenary itself, the latest progress in RAPP was highlighted, calling for a strong and longer-term support of this global initiative.

2017 RAPP international workshop

A few months ago, we organised our RAPP international workshop in South Africa.

Since then, ESA (European Space Agency) has expressed its interest in working with GEOGLAM RAPP, especially by helping us make better  use of satellite data from the Copernicus program (Sentinel 1 and 2). In line with this, we are discussing the possibility to organize our next RAPP workshop at ESRIN in FLogo ESArascati, Italy in May 2017, the week just after the International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE) in Pretoria (South Africa).

Our proposed RAPP workshop (1 or 2 days, by invitation) would focus on ESA’s Sentinel programs, with possibly a focus on integrated use of radar (Sentinel 1) and optical (Sentinel 2/3), and how these data sources  can support land cover monitoring and biomass estimation in rangelands.

The meeting might be held the same week as the GEOGLAM IT (Implementation Team, including JECAM members), so that RAPP can benefit from networking opportunities and strengthen the links with GEOGLAM stakeholders and Earth observation data experts (including with CEOS, the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites) – this still will be confirmed in early 2017.

Having the workshop in ESRIN would also help RAPP reinforce our partnerships with other European partners such as the European Commission, JRC, IIASA, etc.

More to be defined, so please stay tuned early next year!

RAPP Map (map.geo-rapp.org): updates

The GEOGLAM RAPP Map is a tool providing an interactive way to visualise and interrogate global and regional data on rangeland and pasture condition, climate and livestock statistics. The beta version release includes monthly global vegetation cover and anomalies from 2000 to present, at 5km resolution. The same layer at 500 meter is now available. 

 Query tools are starting to be available for some layers - Print screen RAPP Map - Dec 2016

Query tools are starting to be available for some layers – Print screen RAPP Map – Dec 2016

A separate document will be available soon, to explain more in detail about the use of this interactive Map, and to describe its functionality and future improvements.

We look forward to getting your feedback to help improve the system and make it more and more useful to researchers and managers of rangelands and grassland worldwide.

Your inputs are welcome, so please send your comments today to  Dr Juan Guerschman.

Vegetation Cover Anomaly

The monthly vegetation cover anomaly product can also be viewed on its own, and downloaded here.

Global FC anomaly - November 2016

Global FC anomaly – November 2016

The latest map of November 2016 has just been published: it shows the effect of the drought in Southern Africa continuing and a new area of negative anomaly in Eastern Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia).

National Pilot sites – validation work ongoing

In recent months, RAPP has been collecting additional information on national pilot sites. South Africa has proposed 2 pilot sites at the meeting in June, and the description for both of them is now available online.

Several RAPP collaborators are currently progressing a vegetation cover validation exercise. They are putting together a database of existing field measurements of vegetation cover taken over a wide range of rangeland types across Australia, Namibia, China, Argentina, USA and Canada.  At present the database includes ~2300 sites (see map below). This database will be used to help validate the vegetation cover product in these regions.

RAPP collaborative sites for cover validation - Dec 2016

RAPP collaborative sites for cover validation exercise – Dec 2016

We would love to add more regions and sites: please get in touch with us if you can contribute to this project! 

Focus on… the NRM Spatial Hub

An Australian web tool for livestock producers and farmers.

The Australian  NRM Spatial Hub (‘the Hub’) is the result of collaboration of more than 20 organisations led by the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI); the Rangeland NRM Alliance (14 NRM Regional bodies), and the Queensland Remote Sensing Centre.

The Hub is a web tool that provides information about land-cover dynamics at 25m resolution, linking cloud computing and satellite data provided by  AusCover TERN (Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network) data and infrastructure.

It aims to give farm managers the ability to map their properties, analyse land resources and monitor land condition. They can access very quickly and analyse the latest time-series ground cover data at paddock scales, and also compare their property with the neighbours over the last 30 years.

A screenshot from the NRM Spatial Hub showing the Australian ground cover data made available by TERN AusCover (MODIS Fractional Cover from Guerschman et al.)

A screenshot from the NRM Spatial Hub showing the Australian ground cover data made available by TERN AusCover (MODIS Fractional Cover from Guerschman et al.)

This portal has already significantly improved land management across Australia: and thus a better use of pastures biomass, and the potential to increase sustainability and cost-effectiveness in livestock production. The tool brings government data to the land manager alongside 30 years of ground cover data, and enables them to integrate it with their own data.

In the coming months, RAPP will collaborate more closely with the Hub to integrate data from each system and link each other are they are quite complementary (the Hub includes many powerful tools for Australia (farmers scale), while the RAPP Map is a global tool providing information up to 500m resolution for land managers and policy makers).

For more information, read this article on TERN website.

Behind the scenes of RAPP

STARS Landscaping Study: final report released

GEOGLAM RAPP members have contributed to the STARS Landscaping Study led by the University of Twente, which was aimed at identifying real and viable opportunities for agricultural development. The study undertook  literature reviews, workshops and individual expert consultations across several continents, to identify a range of attractive and feasible opportunities for remote sensing to support agricultural development and alleviate poverty.

The final report provides a review of the systems context for understanding how information systems can support agricultural development. It includes a review of recent advances in remote sensing and geospatial technologies along with an analysis of ten broad opportunities for remote sensing to support agricultural development and poverty alleviation.


Besides regular communications with our key partners, RAPP communicates through the website which is regularly updated with news, events and information on RAPP pilot sites.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@geoglamRAPP) as news and products, such as the monthly Vegetation Cover anomaly, are also published there!

At the occasion of the 30th CEOS Plenary, since RAPP was highlighted at the GEOGLAM side-meeting, we updated and printed RAPP brochures to better inform the international space communities present there.


Key events in 2017 for GEOGLAM RAPP

  • CEOS SIT-32, April 2017 in Paris
  • ISRSE, 8-12 May 2017 in Pretoria
  • CEOS/GEOGLAM meeting (May 2017 in Frascati? TBC)
  • RAPP international workshop in May 2017 (ESA ESRIN in Frascati, TBC)

We wish you all a happy end of year, great summer holidays (Southern hemisphere), and Best Wishes for 2017!


If you need to contact us: Dr Juan Guerschman (juan.guerschman(at)csiro.au)