RAPP Newsletter 8 – March 2018

Livestock in Colombia’s eastern plains, or Llanos (Neil Palmer, CIAT).

Dear RAPP colleagues,

We are pleased to share with you this 8th edition of our GEOGLAM RAPP (www.geo-rapp.org) Newsletter !

Since Christmas, we have been developing the RAPP Map to add more features (see below), building stronger relationships with our existing and new partners (especially for our workshop in Kenya), and organising this upcoming special week (7-11 May) in Nairobi. The event will include a session on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a 3-day workshop on Data Cube for African countries, in addition to our RAPP traditional topics.

Read below for more information

Community-of-Practice and workshops     

RAPP Pilot sites 

South Africa

(by Clement Adjorlolo, SANSA)

We have received some field data on woody tree density and above ground grass biomass measurements to calibrate satellite data for modeling rangeland biophysical variables at our Drakensberg pilot site, many thanks to range ecology colleagues working in the area.

Northern uKhahlamba Drakensberg Site

Northern Khahlamba Drakensberg Site

So far, SANSA have pre-processed Landsat imagery that coincide with the available field data. The next step is to run a shortlist of regression and classification models. We are also hoping to further test the models on the sample data cubes that Brian Killough (NASA) and his team are working on for South Africa (Open Data Cube project)…

Updates to be shown at the workshop in Nairobi!

Next RAPP annual meeting in Kenya, with SDG and African Regional Data Cube workshops

Save the Date!

We are pleased to confirm that our next annual Rangeland and Pasture Productivity (RAPP) workshop will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, in May 2018 (7-11 May), co-hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and supported by RAPP coordination team (CSIRO and SANSA) and other local and international partners. We would like to particularly thank ILRI-CGIAR for hosting us and their local support.

Flyer for the whole week in Nairobi

This year, based on growing synergies with other initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) and the Open Data Cube Initiative (ODC), we are planning a whole WEEK in Nairobi, where invitees could all benefit from meeting with key stakeholders (RAPP community, policy-makers, Earth Observation scientists, statisticians, developers) and participating in stimulating discussions around these three initiatives.

The GEO (Group on Earth Observations), the CEOS (Committee on Earth Observation Satellites), the Government of Kenya, the University of Strathmore and the FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) are also helping us to organise this week in Kenya.

Together with these partners, we are organising a week (7-11 May 2018) on Earth observations data applications about rangelands and SDG (2 days), combined with an African Regional Data Cube workshop (new infrastructure to simplify access to EO data and improve analysis tools for end-users), on the last 3 days.

In addition, ILRI is also organizing a field trip on Sunday (6th May) on their Kapiti Research Station (one of RAPP pilot sites). 

A detailed agenda (RAPP and SDG) will be provided to the registered participants closer to the event.

The African Regional Data Cube workshop (more below) is organised by the CEOS SEO (Systems of Engineering Office) and GPSDD (Global Partnership for Sustainable Data), Amazon Services, together with other local partners, but will take place just after the RAPP & SDG meeting.

Please note that this event is by invitation ONLY – but if you haven’t received the invitation but still feel that your presence would be a great asset, please get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can discuss it.

RAPP Products

RAPP Map Updates

Our RAPP Map saw critical updates in the last few months. We incorporated the following changes:

  • The MODIS fractional cover product was recalibrated and applied to the new MODIS collection 6 dataset. The data was updated to January 2018 and will be maintained updated to the latest date available in the MODIS archive. Details on the recalibration will be available in a forthcoming paper in Remote Sensing Letters.
  • We incorporated 8-day and monthly Fractional Cover data
  • We incorporated Total Vegetation Cover anomalies (difference between monthly veg cover and mean veg cover for that month)
  • We incorporated Total Vegetation Cover deciles (comparison of current monthly vegetation cover against the long term vegetation cover for that same month)
  • Analysis Tools (“time series drills”) size limit for polygons expanded.

Stay tuned as in the coming weeks we will also update the help material, providing a step-by-step manual for using the tool.

RAPP Map showing Total vegetation cover in Sept 2017 in the border between Namibia and Botswana. Different land management practices in the two sides of the border result in contrasting levels of vegetation cover over time.

 Link to this view is here too!

Your inputs are welcome! Feel free to send your comments to Dr Juan Guerschman.

Vegetation Cover Anomaly 

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

Total Vegetation Cover Anomaly – Global, February 2018.

This latest map of February 2018 shows areas with vegetation cover lower than average in Eastern and Southern Africa, North-Eastern Australia and in central Asia (N Afghanistan and Turkmenistan).

Focus on…

The African Regional Data Cube initiative

(Inputs from Brian Killough, NASA, CEOS SEO)

We have been thinking for a while to better link our RAPP initiative and the Open Data Cube (ODC), for the community to better improve the accessibility and capacity to process and analyse data from multiple sensors at the same place.

After several discussions with our partner Brian Killough (NASA/CEOS SEO, Committee on Earth Observation Satellite) we decided to organise our RAPP workshop along with a special event on ODC (a regional workshop for African countries) where some RAPP members would be able to learn more about the initiative and the technique.

In parallel, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), CEOS, Amazon Services and Strathmore University are collaborating on the development of a new African Regional Data Cube (ARDC) to support 5 countries in central Africa: Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Tanzania. This effort is focused on building the capacity of users in this region to apply Earth observation satellite data to address local and national needs as well as the objectives of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDG).

Planned for release in May 2018 in Nairobi the same week of our RAPP meeting, the ARDC will support a number of key users, including Government Ministries, National Statistical Agencies, Geographic Institutes, and Research Scientists.

These users will participate in a training and capacity building meeting (planned for May 9-11 in Nairobi, Kenya) to teach the regional representatives how to manage the baseline ARDC, add new data, develop application products and gain an enhanced understanding of how to apply satellite data for user needs.

The ARDC is based on the Open Data Cube (ODC) infrastructure (opendatacube.org), which has been successfully demonstrated in Australia, Switzerland and Colombia and is under development or evaluation by more than 35 other countries. The ODC allows analysis-ready satellite data (e.g. Landsat,Sentinel) to be spatially and temporally aligned in “cubes” of pixels. These data cubes, hosted in the cloud, allow efficient time series analyses (e.g. land change, water extent and quality, agriculture extent and health), permit the use of diverse datasets via interoperable methods, and support connections to common analysis tools while reducing the data preparation and management burden on users. In addition, the ODC community allows engagement of other global users to develop new core code, share algorithms and provide support for the resolution of problems.

Example Data Cube Applications include: Fractional Cover of Vegetated Land (far left), Water Detection using Sentinel-1 Radar (2nd from left), Total Suspended Matter Water Quality (2nd from right) and Water Extent (far right)

Thanks to outstanding pilot countries, the ODC concept is growing: more and more countries are interested in the approach and the technique…

Other regional Open Data Cube projects (e.g. in the Pacific region) may appear soon in the near future, so stay tuned!

Beyond RAPP

DustWatch: an Australian example of RAPP Map’s application

DustWatch is a collaborative effort to monitor wind erosion in Australia. Three nationally-funded projects contribute data and information to government, natural resource management regions and the community: Community DustWatch, Wind Erosion Histories and Modelled Wind Erosion.

Community DustWatch project,supported by Western Local Land Services (NSW), aims at reducing soil erosion in Australia, and uses data and services produced by GEOGLAM RAPP to monitor ground cover levels across the rangelands.

Dr John Leys, project leader, explains more in this video:

Research and Development

Papers worth to read

Rangelands and Food security:

  • Sloat, L.L., Gerber, J.S., Samberg, L.H., Smith, W.K., Herrero, M., Ferreira, L.G., Godde, C.M., West, P.C., 2018. Increasing importance of precipitation variability on global livestock grazing lands. Nat. Clim. Chang. doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0081-5 (see the story featured on CSIRO’s website)
  • Godde, C.M., Garnett, T., Thornton, P.K., Ash, A.J., Herrero, M., 2017. Grazing systems expansion and intensification: Drivers, dynamics, and trade-offs. Glob. Food Sec. doi:10.1016/J.GFS.2017.11.003
  • Boone, R.B., Conant, R.T., Sircely, J., Thornton, P.K., Herrero, M., 2018. Climate change impacts on selected global rangeland ecosystem services. Glob. Chang. Biol. 24, 1382–1393. doi:10.1111/gcb.13995

Earth Observation and SDG (including land monitoring):

  • Special issue in preparation for the Remote Sensing of Environment Journal (call for papers): Guest editorial team managed by Pr. Garciela Metternicht (UNSW, University of New South Wales)


Besides regular communications with our main partners, RAPP provides you with updates on the website including news, events and information on RAPP pilot sites. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@geoglamRAPP) : news and products (eg. monthly Vegetation Cover anomalies) are also published there!

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us !

Next main events for RAPP 

      • 17-18 April (Ispra, Italy): Workshop on Data and Systems Requirements for Operational Agricultural Monitoring and Related Community Side Meetings. 
      • 7-11 May (Nairobi, Kenya): RAPP annual strategic workshop
      • 23-27 July (Valencia, Spain): IGARSS Conference (Open Data Cube presentation)

Thanks again to the contributors. We would like to hear from you: feel free to contact us if you have any news, papers or events to share about remote sensing-based methods and rangelands management !