Earth Observation for ecosystem monitoring at the interface of wetland conservation and food production in Rwanda

S. Steinbach, Konrad Hentze, Jonas Franke, Natalie Cornish, Adrian Strauch, Frank Thonfeld, Sander Zwart, A.D. Nelson

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Wetlands are considered as biodiversity hotspots and they are commonly valued for water purification, flood retention and carbon sequestration. The need for their protection is undisputed. The urgency of the topic has become more tangible with recent studies demonstrating the rapid decline of global wetland area, where inland wetlands are being most affected. Agricultural wetland use is often described as the main driver of wetland degradation and loss through altering hydrologic characteristics, pollution by chemicals and natural habitat destruction. Particularly in food insecure sub-Saharan African countries, local populations often depend directly and the whole countries’ populations indirectly on agricultural production in wetlands.
A lack of spatially explicit information on the very complex and variable wetland landscapes is seen as particularly problematic on the African continent. Knowledge about location, hydrological and land use and land cover characteristics as well as their changes is needed to inform sustainable wetland management. Earth Observation has proven to be an invaluable technology to close this gap and provide quantified and up-to-date spatial information to conventions like the Ramsar convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity or the Sustainable Development Goals, and national government bodies and non-governmental organizations.
Therefore, this study investigated how Earth Observation data can contribute to sustainable wetland management in the context of both wetland conservation and food security. We developed a comprehensive, flexible and applicable characterization and monitoring framework by matching end users’ information needs with remote sensing- based products. Capabilities of such a framework are showcased at the example of Rwanda, drawing from data products generated within the German BMWi-funded research project ‘Copernicus-based Detection and Monitoring of tropical Wetlands’ (DeMo-Wetlands). DeMo-Wetlands aimed at developing methods for the delineation, assessment and monitoring of wetlands in Rwanda in support of international conventions and in close consultation with national stakeholders by making use of the freely available Copernicus missions data. The present study broadens the intended application for conservation purposes by integrating the pressing issue of food security. The combination of several Sentinel-derived data products allowed for the contribution of information on a national scale in terms of extent, land use and its intensity as well as hydrology and demonstrates applications at the interface of wetland conservation and food production in Rwanda. Among others, patterns of high and low intensity agricultural activity could be identified as well as ecologically important phenomena like floating vegetation. Compared to the identified information needs grouped according to the Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) scheme, applications at the interface of wetland conservation and food production in Rwanda could be demonstrated.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2019
EventESA Living Planet Symposium 2019 - Milano Congressi, Milan, Italy
Duration: 13 May 201917 May 2019


ConferenceESA Living Planet Symposium 2019
Internet address


  • Earth Observation
  • wetland
  • Wetland conservation.
  • Food security
  • Rwanda
  • wetland characterization

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