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Satellite view highlights Europe's changing landscape

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.

"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.

The EEA performed its first survey of Europe using data from the early 1990s. With this new Image2000 survey based on data from 2000 one is able to compare and draw conclusions on trends in the landscape. Technological improvements during the decade also allow much more detailed studies.

"In many areas the data will prove that current policies are insufficient. We hope the tool will assist policy makers to make decisions in a more timely way, along integrated land planning concerns", comments Ronan Uhel, head of Spatial Analysis at the EEA.

Fragmenting landscape

As an example of an area in need of better policies, Steenmans points to the impact of new motorways on the landscape: "Every day another 10 hectares the equivalent of 20 football fields of motorw
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Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
mariangela.d'acunto@esa.int
39 06 941 80 856
European Space Agency
12-Nov-2004


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