Semi-natural and natural grasslands are important European ecosystems that provide high biodiversity and a range of other environmental and societal functions. The intensification of agriculture and grassland management, land abandonment, drainage, shrub encroachment, afforestation, changing population structures and urbanisation are increasingly threatening these valuable natural communities. A series of European policies have therefore been created in order to safeguard such declining grassland ecosystems. Pivotal in this context is Natura2000, which has established a network of protected areas including important (semi-)natural grasslands. However, even these protected grasslands are threatened by degradation and conversion.
For this reason, a team of experienced European service providers (GAF, INDRA, Metria and GeoVille) has been awarded a contract by the European Environment Agency to investigate land cover/land use developments and trends at a representative selection of Natura2000 sites and their immediate vicinity between the years 2006 and 2012. Based on 2.5m spatial resolution optical satellite imagery, the consortium will contribute to answer the question whether/in how far the Natura2000 network has been successful in halting the loss of (semi-)natural species-rich grasslands, or in improving the conservation status of degraded habitats. This will entail a detailed analysis of the specific pressures and threats being exerted by the observed land cover/land use changes, in order to draw conclusions on possible future developments on a European and regional scale.
This latest activity in the Copernicus Land local component complements the other initiatives by providing a detailed zoom-in on ‘hot spots’ of biodiversity and human activity, e.g. the Riparian Zones and Urban Atlas. In the Natura2000 project, GAF is responsible for the overall project and quality management, as well as for conducting the very-high resolution land cover/land use mapping and change assessment for western and central Europe, most of Italy and parts of south-eastern Europe.
Pictures: GAF AG
Caption: Example of abandoned semi-natural grassland in the Bavarian Alps, Germany (left); detailed land cover/land use (2012) around a Natura2000 site near Regensburg, Germany (right)
About GAF AG
GAF AG is an e-Geos/Telespazio company based in Munich, Germany. It is a leading solutions provider with an international reputation as a skilled and reliable supplier of data, products and services in the fields of geo-information, satellite remote sensing, spatial IT and consulting for private and public clients. GAF is one of the most experienced European service providers in the EU/ESA Copernicus Programme and covers all the thematic domains: Land, Marine, Atmosphere, Climate Change, Emergency Management and Security. GAF also provides solutions in the sectors of natural resources management, water and environment, renewable resources, mining and geology. Over the past 29 years, GAF has been active in more than 100 countries throughout Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. Further information is available at www.gaf.de.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) is a European Union public body seated in Copenhagen, Denmark. It supports the European Union in the development and implementation of environmental policy by providing relevant, reliable, targeted and timely information on the state of the environment and future prospects, as well as independent scientific knowledge and technical support. The European Commission’s Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) entrusted EEA with coordinating the implementation of the Copernicus Land service’s continental (pan-European) and local components, as well as cross-cutting in situ coordination. Currently, the EEA has 33 member countries (the 28 Member States of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey) and 6 cooperating countries. Further information is available at www.eea.europa.eu.
About Copernicus Land Monitoring
Copernicus, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), is the European programme for establishing a European capacity for earth observation. The objective of its Land Monitoring service is to provide users in the field of the environment and other terrestrial applications with consistent and up-to-date information based on space data and other sources. It addresses a wide range of policies, such as environmental issues, regional development, agriculture, transport and energy, at the EU level, as well as European commitments to International Conventions. It consists of three main components: global, continental (pan-European) and local. Further information on the Copernicus Programme is available at www.copernicus.eu. Information on the Copernicus Land Monitoring service is available at land.copernicus.eu.
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The opinions expressed in this press release are those of the contractor and do not represent the Agency’s official position.