How keeping watch from space is helping protect the environment

Egmont National Park in New Zealand shows the benefits and limitations of protected areas. In this Landsat 8 image acquired on July 3, 2014, the park, with Mt. Taranaki at its center, was established in 1900. This isolated island of protected forest (dark green areas) is surrounded by once-forested pasturelands (light and brown green).

Space-based observations are helping protect some of the Earth's most fragile environments by monitoring protected areas. The project is highlighted in a new book released this week.

Sanctuary: Exploring the World’s Protected Areas from Space, published by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (Arlington, Virginia) with support from NASA, made its debut at the 2014 World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.

It highlights the use of Earth-orbiting sensors is being used to monitor changing environments.

“NASA and numerous other space agency partners from around the globe have used this view from space to make incredible scientific advances in our understanding of how our planet works," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden writes in the book's foreword.

"As a result, we can now better gauge the impact of human activity on our environment and measure how and why our atmosphere, oceans, and land are changing.

"As a former astronaut who has looked upon our beautiful planet from space, I hope that we can advance the use of space-based remote sensing and other geospatial tools to study, understand, and improve the management of the world’s parks and protected areas as well as the precious biodiversity that thrives within their borders.”

The book combines satellite imagery with nature photography, conservation stories, and comments from some of today’s leading park executives and conservationists.

Jonathan B. Jarvis, director of the U.S. National Park Service writes in the book “For the first time in my nearly 40 years of work in the National Park Service, the four US land management agencies are working together, applying the newest geospatial technologies to identify and protect critical corridors of connectivity between protected areas.”

Another story describes the work of the Amazon Conservation Team, which collaborates with indigenous communities to create maps of their territories and in another area develops protective measures to help preserve the rights of isolated tribes.

Princess Charlotte Bay on the east coast of Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula. acquired by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 on April 20, 2013.

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