eOsphere and development
eOsphere has been working internationally since 2007, developing technology and capacity for countries to build resilience against hazards, such as drought, fires and air pollution. The adoption of the the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by all United Nations Member States in 2015 has provided a common framework for achieving peace and prosperity for people and the planet. Here at eOsphere we believe that satellite Earth observation can play a significant role in both tackling the UN SDGs, and also in monitoring their progress.
eOsphere’s SIBELIUs project is using satellite Earth observation to address SDG 1 “No poverty” and SDG 13 “Climate action“. SIBELIUS is supported by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP).
The SIBELIUs project is providing improved pasture monitoring capabilities in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan to support their large and economically significant herding communities. Satellite Earth observation provides an efficient means for monitoring environmental parameters, such as pasture, snow and drought, over large regions, which can facilitate improved pasture management decisions and to allow preparations to be made when harsh conditions are developing.
The SIBELIUs team is working with key Mongolian and Kyrgyz stakeholders to develop Earth observation derived products to serve a wide range of end users.
Building climate change resilience
In Mongolia the main problem faced by herders, who constitute approximately 30% of its population, are extreme weather events, known as dzuds, which are highly damaging to Mongolia’s economy and devastating for the poorest herders. Dzuds are characterised by dry summers, adversely affecting pasture growth, followed by extreme cold and snow in winter. A typical dzud can impact tens of thousands of herders many of whom will lose all their livestock leaving them in extreme poverty, with associated impacts for the wider economy.
In Kyrgyzstan pasture also plays an important role for its people and economy, however, the country is dealing with severe levels of pasture degradation, in particular the encroachment of unpalatable vegetation. This is compounded by a lack of basic pasture and mapping information, which is required to improve the management of grazing, including the support and maintenance of seasonal mobility.
In both Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, climate change is causing altered precipitation patterns and more frequent heat waves, leading to increased aridity and drought, reducing the reliability of pasture, and further impacting on herders and their livestock. As a vital component of the project, SIBELIUs is working with herders at selected case study sites to analyse their information requirements and to ensure their voices and priorities are heard in the development and distribution of new satellite-based environmental products.
Open Data Cubes
The Mongolian and Kyrgyz Data Cubes are key components of the SIBELIUs infrastructure which allow time series of satellite data and derived products to be queried by the project’s partners. Output products, for example relating to pasture and snow, from the Data Cube can be ingested by desktop applications, web apps and dashboard front ends for stakeholders to integrate into their workflows. The Mongolian and Kyrgyz Data Cubes will allow for the rapid expansion in the use of satellite data, including unforeseen applications that might be stimulated once different user groups see what data and resultant information is available.
The processing chain that transforms the initially downloaded satellite data into useful products has several stages. The first stage is to generate the analysis ready data, which includes removing or masking unwanted atmospheric effects. The next stage is to generate several intermediate indices, from which a range of pasture and snow products are produced on regular cycles throughout the year. For example, the pasture anomaly product compares the current state of grazing pasture to the long-term average for that time of the year, showing herders and decision makers whether the pasture conditions are currently better or worse than they usually are.
The pasture and snow products form basic building blocks, from which many other more advanced products can be derived, including dzud risk maps, which will aim to give advanced warning of very severe environmental conditions posing a risk to livestock.
Training for sustainability
SIBELIUS is conducting a series of technology training workshops, to ensure that Mongolian and Kyrgyz stakeholders are best placed to benefit from the new satellite technology. In-country training and Jupyter notebooks have been developed focused on skills required to exploit and maintain Open Data Cubes, in particular Python software.