You are using an outdated browser that does not fully support the intranda viewer.
As a result, some pages may not be displayed correctly.

We recommend you use one of the following browsers:

Full text

Application of remote sensing and GIS for sustainable development

Harini Nagendra' and Madhav Gadgil 1 ’ 2
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore - 560012
2 .la\vaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research. Jakkur P.O., Bangalore - 560064
India is a country with rich biological resources, which are being depleted over time. Field measurements will not be sufficient to
monitor changes in these resources over time, and must be complemented by other means of assessment, namely remote sensors.
Linkages need to be established between extensive remotely sensed information derived at a broader scale and intensive, locally
collected field data. Ecosystem mapping provides a means for this. Landscapes can be classified into different ecosystem types
using remotely sensed data, and each type associated with specific environmental parameters (such as a certain set of species or
levels of soil erosion) based on field studies. Preliminary investigations in the Western Ghats and west coast of India have
demonstrated the feasibility of this methodology for assessing and monitoring Angiosperm species diversity. A similar
methodology can be extended to monitoring other natural resources such as biomass and land and water quality. However, crucial
details of the methodology to be defined are the scale at which this classification is to be carried out, the number of ecosystem
types to be differentiated, the nature and extent of field information, and the extent of correlation between broad scale
classification and detailed field information, for different situations. Taking all these aspects into consideration, and based on our
earlier experience in using such a methodology for biodiversity assessment, a multi-scale programme of biological resource
assessment and monitoring across the Western Ghats is proposed.
The structure, composition and distribution of
natural resources on earth has never been static - there
have always been changes in land and water quality,
species composition, landscape structure and other
natural resources. This is part of the nature of life itself —
but human activities of various kinds have severely
accelerated the rates of changes in these environmental
parameters. This poses problems of several kinds,
including purely economic difficulties, health hazards,
and even less obvious issues like loss in functionality -
for example, studies suggest that when biodiversity
levels fail beiow certain minimum requirements, entire
ecosystems may collapse. These and other factors make
the slowing of rates of depletion of the earth’s natural
resources critical.
For this, we need to identify major forces driving
these losses, and determine where these processes are
most active and losses maximal. This information can be
used to drive strategies for resource conservation.
Several such studies have been carried out, but
satisfactory answers still elude us. This is not for lack of
effort, nor is it due to a lack of scientific capability. The
problems associated with the distribution and decline of
natural resources are extremely multifaceted and do not
permit neat and simple studies.
Even specifically for India, this task poses several
important scientific and logistic challenges. Ours is a
country of rich and varied ecosystems and habitats,
harboring a virtual treasure house of natural resources.
These are distributed over a vast 320 million ha of land
and 200 million ha of exclusive economic zone in the
sea. To inventory, monitor and conserve natural
resources over such a large and varied area is an
enormous task.
Remote sensing has a high potential capability for
natural resource assessment, as it can provide
information about the distribution and composition of
several kinds of natural resources like water, soil,
minerals, biomass and vegetation cover, over large areas
at a glance. Ecologists in fact have investigated the
potential of remote sensing for various studies, mainly
for land use and land cover mapping (Roughgarden et
ah, 1991; Turner et al., 1994). However, given the size
of the country and the fact that the scale of variation in
distribution of resources is often too small to be picked
up by remote sensors at commercially available
resolutions, it is not possible to completely census
resources using only remotely sensed data.
Supplementary data in the form of field observations are
Data collected by remote sensors is extensive, and
at relatively coarse resolutions. Field data, for example
on water quality, soil erosion or species distributions,
cannot be as extensive and must be sampled at various