Knowledge Base

The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of the application of EO technologies that are currently being used to support implementation of the Convention, including contributing to its Strategic Plan (2016-2024). It further draws on the TESEO project (Ramsar Convention Secretariat, 2010a) analysis of how the information needs for the Convention could be met through the use of EO technologies. These included the needs for improved knowledge about wetlands including a global inventory; support to ensure maintenance of ecological character; and information to improve the performance of the Convention. In addition to inventory and baseline mapping, at the national level support is needed in the assessment of status and trends and for the implementation of management (e.g. rehabilitation) plans. Recent reporting needs include those for the 2020 Aichi Targets for Biodiversity and the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as participation in the work programme of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

Earth Observation for wetland inventory, assessment and monitoring

The full report can be downloaded in .pdf format from the Ramsar Convention's website: Ramsar Technical Report #10 Guidance for the use of Earth Observation for wetland inventory, assessment and monitoring. This page provides up-to-date and direct access to the report and the datasets, methdologies and software it builds upon.

Case Studies

In order to understand and mitigate the long and short-term adverse impacts associated with the destruction or modification of wetlands, the Ramsar Convention emphasises the importance of assessing the status, trends and threats to wetlands. However, in many locations, lack of data is a serious constraint to the effective reporting on wetland status and trends. Conventional data are often lacking in time or space, are of poor quality, or are only available at locations that are not necessarily representative of the wetland ecosystem. There is a growing awareness that EO data has the potential to provide the information needed for accurate wetland assessments and updating of several data fields on the Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS) including the physical features of the wetland (data field 16); the presence and dominance of particular wetland types (data field 19); as well as factors affecting the ecological character of the wetland (data field 26). Lake Burullus in Egypt is used here as an example to illustrate the practical applications of EO for obtaining such information with a specific focus on using this to update the RIS.

Context and ecological character

Lake Burullus is a shallow, saline lagoon along the Mediterranean coast containing numerous islands and islets connected with the sea by a narrow channel. It provides important wintering, staging and breeding habitat for birds, and has been a designated Ramsar site since 1990. The Lake is connected to the sea at it north-eastern edge through the Burullus inlet. The northern border is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a strip of land covered with sand bars and dunes. Seven drains and fresh water canals are connected to its eastern, southern and western shores. The lake barriers are sandy and range from 0.4 to 5.5 km in width. Low relief backshore and foredunes characterize the western barrier. The eastern barrier is narrow and backed by coastal barchans dunes. These dunes encroach landward onto a cultivated coastal flat.

Pressures and threats

Major pressures on the wetland include reclamation for agriculture, aquaculture and urbanization. As a consequence the site is subject to the inflow of large amounts of water contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides causing nutrient-enrichment and pollution. In addition, the freshwater inflow from the surrounding land may be declining as result of increasing demands for water for economic purposes, including the expansion of irrigated agriculture. This could affect the salinity and hence the ecological character of the wetland.

Information needs

Currently there is no systematic way to characterize and monitor threats and impacts on Lake Burullus. There is an immediate need to update the latest available RIS from 1992. The designated Ramsar Administrative Authority in Egypt, the Nature Conservation Sector under the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, has therefore collaborated with the GlobWetland-II (2010-2014), SWOS (2015-2018) and GlobWetland Africa (2015-2018) project to support the Lake Burullus RIS and management planning with EO information about the status and trends in the wetland’s ecological character.

EO approach

Under GlobWetland Africa the recent status of Lake Burullus was mapped from multi-date Sentinel-2 imagery acquired on the 1st May and 15th of July 2016. Sample sites were identified through visual interpretation of very high-resolution imagery available from Google Earth, combined with a reference from the local land cover/land use database. These datasets were used to train and calibrate a supervised classifier in order to produce a map of the spatial distribution of key wetland types and the surrounding land use (Figure 1 - left). Similarly, and under GlobWetland-II the long-term changes in Lake Burullus were mapped by comparing images acquired by the Landsat mission during the 1970s, the 1990s and the 2000s (Figure 1 - right).
Sample Description
Sample Description

Global Surface Water Explorer

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Global Forest Watch

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GlobWetland II

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Global Mangrove Watch

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List of methodologies
List of tools and software
NameDescriptionMore information
GlobWetland AfricaGW-A Toolbox
QGISA free general prupose GISQGIS
List of e-learning resources
NameDescriptionMore information
EO CollegeEO College is a hub to learn Earth Observation and has been developed by the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany. It has a focus on the application of Spaceborne Aperture Radar (SAR) technologies.
Applied Remote Sensing TrainingARSET offers online webinars throughout the year. Each training lasts four to five weeks, one hour per week, and are often offered twice a day to accommodate attendees in different time zones. Webinars are appropriate for professionals engaged in applied environmental management.