Environmental Quality

Remote Assessment of Biosystems

Technical Applications


Monitoring and management of large scale biosystems is increasingly important as human activities have an increasing impact on global change. On an immediate basis we are faced with the problems of sustainable fisheries and forestry management. Longer term are the problems of air pollution's impact on regional forests, erosion, and watershed maintenance, and ultimately the functioning of forests and photoplankton in balancing atmospheric gases.


While higher resolution, multispectral satellite imagery will place an impressive demand on information and communications systems and the related ability to store, access, and display the raw data, interpretation will place unprecedented demands on technologies for acquiring and integrating ground truth data. Coupling ground truth data and pattern recognition will be necessary for meaningful monitoring, science, and management. This would contribute to improved environmental quality by supporting the development of a scientific basis for ecosystem management.


The commercial availability of high resolution imagery will certainly expand the access to data, but will still require substantial work on computer algorithms and field research in order to convert the images to useful information on crop estimates and the effects of atmospheric changes on the status and productivity of forests.


The United States is the clear leader in the technologies needed for image acquisition and processing and has also led in efforts to correlate image data with changes in the status of crops and forestry with significant efforts dating to the ERTS and LandSat satellite series, and more recent efforts to correlate the emergence of disease vectors and crop blights with multispectral changes in large area surveys. While the United States is the clear leader in the underlying hardware- based technologies of image acquisition and the algorithms for computer analysis, there is a great deal of field work to be done concurrently to provide the physical bio-system status. The European efforts in this area are substantial, but limited by factors related to their actual investment in hardware, software, and field work in both the agricultural and environmental sciences.