Linking archival and remote sensed data for long term environmental monitoring
Publication Year:
The broad objective of this paper is to illustrate how archival, historical and remotely sensed data can be used to complement each other for long-term environmental monitoring. One of the major constraints confronting scientific investigation in the area of long-term environmental monitoring is lack of data at the required temporal and spatial scales. While remotely sensed data have provided dependable change detection databases since 1972, long-term changes such as those associated with typical climate scenarios often require longer time series data. The lack of data in readily accessible and usable formats for periods predating commercial satellite products has for a long time restricted the scope of environmental studies to temporally brief, synoptic overviews covering short time scales, thereby compromising our understanding of complex environmental processes. One way to improve this understanding is by cross-linking different forms of data at different temporal scales. However, most remote sensing based change research has tended to marginalize the utility of archival and historical sources in environmental monitoring. While the accuracy of data from non-instrumental records is often source-specific and varies from place to place, carefully conducted searches can yield useful information that can be effectively used to extend the temporal coverage of projects dependant on time series data. This paper is based on an ongoing project on environmental monitoring in the world's largest Ramsar site, the Okavango Delta, located on the northeastern fringes of Southern Africa's Kalahari-Namib desert in northern Botswana. With a database covering over 150 years between 1849 and 2001, the primary objectives of this paper are to: (1) outline how modern remotely sensed data (i.e., CORONA and Landsat) can be complemented by historical in situ observations (i.e., travellers' records and archival maps) to extend temporal coverage into the historical past, (2) illustrate that different forms of declassified Cold War intelligence data (i.e., CORONA) can be constructively exploited to further scientific understanding and (3) provide a conceptual framework for collating and disseminating data at regional and international levels through electronic media. Keywords: Long-term environmental monitoring, Archival, Historical, Remotely sensed data, Okavango Delta, Multi-temporal analysis.
Publication Title:
International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Item Type:
Journal Article

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