Aerial Mapping

Satellites orbiting Earth provide continuous monitoring of vital processes. However, they have limitations. Their flight altitude limits detail of their observations, and the highest-resolution imagery is collected by commercially-owned satellites with low geographic coverage as well as a monopoly on collection. This makes the data costly and difficult to use in public or scientific research and monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) processes.

This creates a significant extra barrier to projects that need to calculate impact on a landscape over a long-term baseline, and want to share their results openly.

Open Alternatives

In Spain, official survey flights of the federal government SIGPAC agricultural monitoring system have occurred since 2001. Conducted on a semi-annual basis, this data provides critical insight for environmental projects, enabling a potent tool to assess and monitor change from the scale of individual trees, to farm parcels and the entire landscape.

In Spain, the federal government's SIGPAC agricultural monitoring system has conducted semi-annual survey flights since 2001. However, due to the restricted availability of this data in government information systems, these insights aren't accessible for everyday activities.

By integrating SIGPAC and Cadastral into the AlVelAl Landscape Network, this information can be used and accessed by all project stakeholders.

Time Traveling

The multi-decade coverage of SIGPAC is a major benefit for environmental projects, but land cover and environmental change have been happening for much longer.

Thankfully, Spain has a long history of aerial mapping, with data available dating back to the 1920s in some regions. The original role was for military intelligence, but historical imagery has obvious value in assessment of landscape changes, as well as related planning efforts [1; 2]. Thanks to pioneering work of early aerial photographers and archivists, there is data available from the 1980s, 1970s, 1950s, 1940s, and even 1928 (in some regions).

It is now used to track agricultural abandonment, urban development, and provide soil carbon baseline estimates [3]. Access to such information enables deep insight on landscape-scale changes, and helps to have clear understanding of impact over time. Incorporating this information in community information systems increases their ability to understand and engage with landscape-scale processes.


1 - Ícaro Obeso Muñiz, Felipe Fernández García, Recent urban development in Gijón (Spain). Historic aerial photography as a tool for sustainability assessment of the process, Cities, Volume 67, 2017, 1-8, DOI: 10.1016/j.cities.2017.04.009

2 - Ruiz-Varona, A. et al. (2022). Harmonization of land-cover data to assess agricultural land transformation patterns in the peri-urban Spanish Mediterranean Huertas. Journal of Land Use Science. DOI: 10.1080/1747423X.2021.2022793

3 - Alías, J.C.; Mejías, J.A.; Chaves, N. Effect of Cropland Abandonment on Soil Carbon Stock in an Agroforestry System in Southwestern Spain. Land2022, 11, 425. DOI: 10.3390/land11030425

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