A new tool based on satellite data shows trends in the way Europeans use the landscape. Seen from the ground these changes appear gradual, but viewed from above they are often dramatic. Each day new roads or buildings bury the equivalent of 240 football fields of German soil, around 120 hectares of land. This is just one example of the information available from a new virtual atlas of Europe’s landscape based on satellite data. The European Environment Agency (EEA), assisted by ESA’s Earth Observation Directorate, is publishing the data on 17 November 2004.
“What we are able to see from satellite data is that the increase in soil that is sealed off by human infrastructure activities is even greater than we anticipated”, says Chris Steenmans, Project Manager for Land and Remote Sensing at the EEA. “Fragmentation of land is a time bomb. Each year only a small fraction of the landscape will change its function. This is not enough for you to really feel the change as dramatic. But if you use satellite data over a span of ten years you can really see a difference”.
The project is contributing to shaping Europe’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative, which will provide environmental information from a combination of ground-, air- and space-based observation systems. Both EEA and ESA are partners in GMES.