The European Space Agency (ESA) and Oikon sign two contracts for remote sensing projects in Croatia

November 29, 2021 – the European Space Agency (ESA) and Oikon recently signed contracts for two projects – Human Induced Coastal Change Monitoring and Development of detection method for invasive plant species using Sentinel data. Both projects, in addition to contributing to the conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity, also contribute to the development of space technology in Croatia, which we are especially proud of, as well as the fact that we are the only company to be approved two project proposals.

Project 1: Human Induced Coastal Change Monitoring

Protection of coastal ecosystems from negative human impact and, accordingly, protection of habitats and biodiversity are some of the main elements of sustainable development. Coastal ecosystems are among the most productive and heterogeneous ecosystems and one of the few directly linked to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 14 and 15. The ecosystems are well protected by legal regulations, but it is very difficult to apply this in practice. This is especially evident in the territory of the Republic of Croatia, both due to the nature of the coastline (accessibility) and its size. Accordingly, the development of methodologies that would enable the monitoring of human-induced coastal change is of particular importance.

Remote sensing methods have proven to be an excellent tool for quickly detecting changes on the coastline, which further enables the activation of services in charge of coastal surveillance. Oikon decided to give its contribution to the preservation of marine ecosystems through the project of observing changes in the coastal zone of the Republic of Croatia induced by negative human activities. The project began in early November and will run for eight months.

Project 2: Development of detection method for invasive plant species using Sentinel data

Control of invasive plant species is defined as one of the priorities in the Nature Protection Strategy and Action Plan for the period 2017-2025 due to the extreme damage they cause to local ecosystems. Traditional methods of finding invasive individuals are based on intensive and expensive fieldwork, however, with the development of space technology, there is an increasing possibility of using remote sensing, i.e. satellite images in this case.

Numerous studies have already shown that high-resolution satellite images, taken with different types of sensors, can be used to distinguish and map plant species based on their spectral reflection, pigmentation, water volume, or leaf chemical characteristics. In some cases, differentiation is achieved by longer-term observation of plant phenology, comparing the time of budding, flowering, or leaf fall. Detection of invasive plants by satellite imagery poses a particular challenge because these species often do not occupy large areas or it is difficult to differentiate them from indigenous plant species.

This project, based on the use of images obtained from Sentinel satellites, will examine the possibility of detecting invasive plant species that are problematic in Croatia with the long-term goal of establishing an efficient and automated tracking system. Its development will greatly contribute to the activities of protection and conservation of biodiversity in Croatia, with the possibility of application in various industries, primarily agriculture and forestry. The project begins in January 2022 and will run for 12 months.

The quality and importance of both projects were recognized by the European Space Agency (ESA), which funds them as part of the first national ESA call intended exclusively for Croatian companies, the scientific community, in areas involving Earth observation and the use of space technology for economic development and society as a whole.

Disclaimer: the view expressed in this post can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Space Agency

Photos: Ivan Tomljenović, https://sentinels.copernicus.eu/ and https://www.esa.int/

Oikon d.o.o.
Oikon d.o.o.