Our latest headlines

October 2016 | RSS explains palm oil exploitation on German television
Recently, ARD visited our offices to learn about monitoring and preventing illegal palm oil plantations. The video released by the German television programme provides a brief insight into our work and the valuable role remote sensing plays in protecting our environment.

Watch the full video on palm oil here or skip to our contribution at 12:50.
September 2016 | Poster award at the 15th International Peat Congress

RSS participated in the 15th International Peat Congress in Kuching, Malaysia and won the best poster award. The poster presented our damage assessment of the 2015 fire catastrophe in Indonesia. Imagery from Sentinel-1 allowed us to produce comprehensive burned area maps and fire emission estimates for our "ESA cci_fire" project.

August 2016 | TET-1 detects twice as many fires as MODIS
Our latest scientific publication demonstrates how the new TET-1 satellite detects twice the number of hotspots found using MODIS products. Atwood's finding has vast implications for fire management and monitoring worldwide. To read the exciting details released on PLOS this month, visit the following link:
July 2016 | A preview into the latest advances in fire detection
Last year, we reported on the latest technology being employed to map fires across Indonesia. This month, Elizabeth Atwood's article on peat fire detection and FireBird technology will dive into the details. In the meantime and before the big reveal on PLOS, take a peak at the abstract below!

Detection and Characterization of Low Temperature Peat Fires During the 2015 Fire Catastrophe in Indonesia Using a New High-Sensitivity Fire Monitoring Satellite Sensor (FireBird)

Elizabeth C. Atwood1,2*, Sandra Englhart2, Eckehard Lorenz3, Winfried Halle3, Werner Wiedemann2, Florian Siegert1,2

Vast and disastrous fires occurred on Borneo during the 2015 dry season, pushing Indonesia into the top five carbon emitting countries. The region was affected by a very strong El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate phenomenon, on par with the last severe event in 1997/98. Fire dynamics in Central Kalimantan were investigated using an innovative sensor offering higher sensitivity to a wider range of fire intensities at a finer spatial resolution (160 m) than heretofore available. The sensor is onboard the TET-1 satellite, part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) FireBird mission. TET-1 images (acquired every 2-3 days) from the middle infrared were used to detect fires continuously burning for almost three weeks in the protected peatlands of Sebangau National Park as well as surrounding areas with active logging and oil palm concessions. TET-1 detection capabilities were compared with MODIS active fire detection and Landsat burned area algorithms. Fire dynamics, including fire front propagation speed and area burned, were investigated. We show that TET-1 has improved detection capabilities over MODIS in monitoring low-intensity peatland fire fronts through thick smoke and haze. Analysis of fire dynamics revealed that the largest burned areas resulted from fire front lines started from multiple locations, and the highest propagation speeds were in excess of 500 m/day (all over peat > 2m deep). Fires were found to occur most often in concessions that contained drainage infrastructure but were not cleared prior to the fire season. Benefits of implementing this sensor system to improve current fire management techniques are discussed. Near real-time fire detection together with enhanced fire behavior monitoring capabilities would not only improve firefighting efforts, but also benefit analysis of fire impact on tropical peatlands, greenhouse gas emission estimations as well as mitigation measures to reduce severe fire events in the future.

Image: active fire fronts expand around a burn scar in the bottom four TET images (acquired between September and October 2015) while the Landsat images show the land pre-fire (top left) and growing burn scar boundaries (top right).
June 2016 | Sentinels4MarinePlastics returns from a successful field campaign
Sentinels4MarinePlasticWaste successfully completed their field campaign across Germany and Italy! The 3-week expedition sampled plastic debris concentrations in the Po River plume and delta beach sediments, visiting a total of 9 lightly to heavily polluted beaches in the process. The resulting in situ samples will validate an existing oceanographic current model, improving our ability to predict the accumulation of riverine debris along beaches.

Along with the dry samples, more than 20 water samples were obtained between the main river, all six river mouths and the open sea. These data will calibrate the algorithms that compute proxies for marine plastic concentrations and strengthen future methods to detect plastic debris.

For more information on our partners, please visit the ISMAR-CNR website.
May 2016 | RSS presents at the ESA Living Planet Symposium
Preliminary results from the ESA cci_fire and ESA DUE GlobBiomass project were presented at the ESA Living Planet Symposium last week. The audience in Prague learned how C-band data acquired by the Sentinel-1 satellite were used to assess burned areas in Kalimantan. The project’s second stage was also elaborated on: the extents of the burned areas detected will subset a wall-to-wall, aboveground biomass map (created during ESA DUE GlobBiomass in 2010) in order to estimate regional carbon emissions.

Watch the full presentation online (START: 37min 40s):
ESA Living Planet Symposium: Forest Biomass
April 2016 | RSS Employee Granted Research Award
RSS’ Sandra Englhart received a research award from the Gregor Louisoder Environmental Foundation. The foundation honours young scientists that show exceptional commitment to environmental protection and conservation. The award itself consists of a € 2,500 monetary reward, as well as funding allotted specifically to the recipient’s continuing research. Sandra Englhart was honoured for her dissertation: "Monitoring restoration and aboveground biomass in tropical peat swamp forests on Borneo using multi - sensoral remote sensing data".

For more information, please refer to the corresponding press release or website below:
Gregor Louisoder Environmental Foundation website
Press Release (German)(PDF 416 KB)
March 2016 | DeMo-Wetlands project starts this April, 2016
DeMo-Wetland’s overarching objective is to develop a nation-wide monitoring system for tropical wetlands in Rwanda, providing direct support for national and global initiatives and conventions. The development phase will place particular emphasis on streamlining results for end users and future applications. This should maximize the efficacy and transferability of both methods and products created. RSS will be collaborating with the University of Bonn’s Remote Sensing Research Group on this project.
February 2016 | New project (COP4EE) kicks off in support of Germany’s energy transition
COP4EE will develop innovative Earth Observation methods and services that support the use of renewable energies. RSS is one of many COP4EE partners, alongside DELPHI IMM GmbH, M.O.S.S GmbH and FfE (Research Center for Energy Economics). The three-year project is partially funded by BMWi and officially commenced on March 9th, 2016 at the Ministry of Economy, Climate Protection, Energy and Land Regulation (Rheinland-Pfalz), Mainz, Germany.

For more information, please see the following press release (German).
January 2016 | Good news for Indonesia - RSS presents at the Forest Biomass and Biodiversity Workshop, Palembang, South Sumatra
On January 21st, RSS shared its latest results with local Indonesian authorities, international NGOs and stakeholders involved in BIOCLIME. Participants were particularly riveted by RSS’ historic fire regime which extends back to 1997 and comprises highly-accurate burned area and fire frequency maps. These data enable Indonesia to retrospectively assess fire’s impact on regional biodiversity fluxes, GHG emissions and carbon budgets. When used as a baseline, this product also helps elucidate current (carbon) impacts such as those unleashed by 2015’s severe fires. In short, RSS’ results represent a long-awaited and immensely valuable resource for Indonesia.

RSS’ current tasks include providing land cover, forest, biomass, biodiversity and fire data for BIOCLIME, which will be integrated into an overarching forest information and monitoring system (FIMS). On this subject, we are pleased to announce our newest partnership with the Institute for World Forestry of the University of Hamburg, who will assist us with data integration, validation and FIMS establishment.

Our thanks go to the GIZ for orchestrating BIOCLIME, as well as the German Ministry for Environment and Nuclear Safety (BMU) for financing this workshop.
For more information on BIOCLIME, please zoom to Sumatra on our projects map.