Satellite imagery from the European Space Agency’s Sentinels mission is being exploited by researchers at Edge Hill University to explain seasonal trends in savannah vegetation.
Professor Paul Aplin recently presented an invited paper on ‘The influence of seasonality on savannah land cover mapping’ at the Living Planet Symposium in Milan. This work demonstrates the potential of combined optical and radar imagery, a novel feature of the Sentinel satellites, for increasing the accuracy of monitoring land cover over large areas. This is particularly significant in savannah environments, where woody vegetation cover has increased dramatically in recent decades, apparently in response to global changes in Earth’s atmosphere.
Changes to the tree-grass balance have broad environmental implications, not least to the biodiversity sustained in savannahs including elephant and rhino megaherbivores, plus apex predators such as lions and leopards. The present research continues a fruitful collaboration with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s Dr Chris Marston, and introduces a new member to the team, Kwame Awuah, a recently enrolled PhD student at Edge Hill University.
With financial support from The Royal Geographical Society, each year the Geographical Club Award offers two grants of £1,000 to support PhD students undertaking geographical fieldwork or other forms of data collection in the UK or overseas. We were delighted to see that Kwame was chosen as one of the recipients of this award who will use this grant towards furthering this research.
The team will now embark on their next research adventure to Kruger National Park, South Africa when they leave to carry out further investigations on Wednesday 26th June. Team members Professor Paul Aplin, Kwame Awuah and Daniel Knight from Edge Hill University will seek to determine the spatial extent and distribution of grazing lawns and monitor how they change over time in response to grazing, precipitation and fire regimes. Field surveys will be conducted to measure vegetation properties and animal presence, and grazing lawn dynamics will be compared to environmental drivers such as herbivory, climate and fire to indicate the resilience of grazing lawns to different environmental pressures.
We wish the team every success on this field visit.