How New Technology is Transforming Conservation Practices

It’s fair to say that the impact of climate change on the forests and conservation sector is damaging. We increasingly need new, more sustainable ways of conserving natural environments around the world.

Extreme geological events, shrinking arctic sea levels and global temperature rises are all issues that need to be tackled in pioneering new ways.

Projects with new technologies at their core are leading the way for innovation in the sustainability sector. Space enabled technologies such as satellite navigation, Earth observation and remote data communications have the potential to prompt change.

Here are some of the most exciting examples of projects working to tackle conservation and climate issues around the world through space technology, including right here in the UK.

River Nexus: Smarter Disaster Warnings

The River Nexus Project is finding faster ways of warning local inhabitants about oncoming floods through the use of satellite technologies. The initiative has been set up along the tropical rain belt, where people are most at risk from climate change related disasters.

A series of measuring stations is being set up along the river, harnessing the hydro power of the water and detecting changes in water levels. Satellite communication allows for the rapid warning of inhabitants and other parties to help minimize the impact of flooding.

In addition to protecting inhabitants and infrastructure, the project will also provide a wealth of data for researchers studying the effect of climate change.


WIMS: The Water Infrastructure Management Service

Due to the scale and remoteness of the UK’s water assets, along with reduced budgets in the water management industry, the UK is facing several challenges that need to be addressed in inventive ways.

Satellite technologies have the potential to provide much-needed solutions. The WIMS project primarily focuses on reservoir management to pick up on leakages, measure water levels and detect changes around dams.

Low-cost GNSS sensors are used to provide data on an hourly basis and optical imagery alerts users to changes in the environment in real time. For example, changes in vegetation growth in a certain area can be a sign of leakage in a dam wall. Early warning systems can help prevent wider damage to the surrounding environment.

These technologies also have the potential to enhance flood mapping and earth movement monitoring around the UK.

Curio: A Community Platform for Urban Forests

The mission of the Curio project is to get people more interested in local flora and fauna. They have created a web and mobile app to be used by inhabitants of urban areas to learn about the trees in their local area. Using satellite navigation to direct users to areas with missing data, the project hopes to add to the data on urban forests for the benefit of urban planners and policy makers.

Users are able to take photos and measurements of trees and send data back to the main server, adding to the collective information. Observing changes to the effect of urban trees on urban infrastructure and the environment is vital for sustainable decision making.

By turning conservation into a community activity, sustainability in urban areas becomes a collective issue.


IoTrees: Sustainable Forest Management

Another project focused on trees, IoTrees is targeted at forest managers and owners. Based in Ireland, the project is designed to aid the monitoring of trees and forests with minimal human intervention.

Satellite communications and sensors are being used to geo-locate trees, take measurements and transmit data wirelessly back to a central HQ platform. Measuring trees and growth rates will help managers make better informed decisions with a wider pool of reliable data and minimise the need to manually check forests. This will reduce costs and prevent damage to the natural environment.

The forest HQ platform lets managers map forests, make assessments and predictions all from one easily accessible place.

Wild We Go: An Augmented Reality Experience for National Parks

Augmented reality and virtual gaming experiences are increasingly being used in novel ways. The Wild We Go project is attempting to boost the popularity of national parks and awareness around biodiversity issues through this new tech.

A mobile app for visitors to the park is connected to a main server, which also connects to a web app for friends and family to join in the experience from home.

In addition to encouraging learning about nature, this also has the benefit of reducing the ecological footprint of visitors around protected areas. Visitors can more easily report any observations or problems to the park authorities via the remote transmission of data.

Satellite navigation is used to accurately map visitors’ location within the park and mark out sites of specific interest.


The Growth of New, Sustainable Technologies

As we’ve seen, space enabled technologies have the potential to revolutionise the way we think about and manage the environmental issues of our time.

These projects have been funded by The European Space Agency (ESA Business Apps), and there are many more like them focusing on wide ranging environmental projects. From endangered species tracking, to managing water scarcity around the globe, satellite technologies have uses far more wide ranging than previously imagined.

Find out more about the funding and support offered by ESA BA here.

Words by Charles

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