Application of Remote Sensing and GIS for Wildlife and Marine Conservation
Application of Remote Sensing and GIS for Wildlife and Marine Conservation

Satellite Imagery and GIS are useful tools for biologists and conservationists who require a bird's eye view from remote and hard to reach areas to monitor wildlife and marine environment activities and operations. Remoteness, lack of government involvement, wars and uncertainty over the best places and ways to focus limited resources can all sustain conservation efforts.

Satellite imagery, aerial photography, LiDAR and GIS supports wildlife and marine conservationists to better understand the ecosystem changes in critical and protected areas around the world. Remote Sensing and GIS are often used in combination for habitat and vegetation mapping, monitoring, assessment and analysis of the progression of conservation activities, ecological patterns, encroachment of protected wildlife parks, monitoring of wildlife and marine populations and building management support systems by comparing images from different dates.

Rapa Iti Botanical Garden - French Polynesia

Rapa Iti Botanical Garden — French Polynesia


© 2010 GeoEye

Satellite Imaging Corporation provides satellite imagery and GIS mapping in support of conservation for groups such as Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and provides imagery with valuable information on land cover and use changes for wildlife protected areas utilizing high resolution satellite sensors for assessment and monitoring of our forests and oceans.

No matter how remote, Satellite Imaging Corporation (SIC) can retrieve your images from the most difficult-to-photograph areas of the world from each satellite sensor. We are familiar with specialized retrieval methods used for digital imagery in remote areas, highly developed areas and areas of persistent heavy cloud cover such as the tropics.

Satellite Imaging Corporation provides specialized image processing per client requirements through ATCOR (Atmospheric Correction and Haze Reduction) by color balancing and utilizing the correct satellite band combinations for correct analysis. The images can be optimized to enhance by filtering the correct band combinations for Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) mapping technique.

Satellite Imagery, LiDAR and GIS technologies are used for the following applications in support of wildlife and habitat management and conservation:

  • Design and manage protected areas
  • Land cover/use mapping
  • Tropical forest and coastal monitoring
  • Vegetation mapping
  • Land and Marine Species tracking
  • Wildlife abundance and distribution
  • Conservation planning
  • Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Biodiversity assessment and mapping
  • Natural resource management
  • Ecosystem analysis
  • Environmental risk assessment
  • Habitat description
  • Coastal zone management

Our Ecosystems

Lake Ichkeul, Tunisia
Cosumnes River Preserve — California
Satellite Image of Northern Tunisia Satellite Image of the Cosumnes River Preserve

Left: Northern Tunisia, Ichkeul Lake and wetland are a major stopover point for hundreds of thousands of migrating birds, such as ducks, geese, storks and pink flamingoes, who come to feed and nest there. Ichkeul is the last remaining lake in a chain that once extended across North Africa. The lake badly deteriorated as the result of the construction of three dams on rivers supplying it and its marshes. The two ASTER 3-2-1 RGB composites depict vegetation in shades of red. In 2005 (bottom) the water level is higher than 2001 (top), but a large part of the lake appears red due to the presence of aquatic plants.

Photo credit to NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Right: Image © 2010 GeoEye. Cosumnes River Preserve one of the most biologically rich landscapes in California. This IKONOS image identifies historic landscape patterns, such as slough lines, drainages and flood plains that are valuable for planning and executing restoration programs. Visible in the image are soil patterns, various land use and land cover, and seasonal marshes, all of which are key components in monitoring preserve design.

Our Ecosystem share a common threat: human impact, usually in the form of habitat destruction, eradication efforts, over harvesting, and the introduction of invasive species. Though conservationists have long been concerned about the impact of human activity, a lack of quantifiable data has historically hampered efforts to achieve conservation goals.


Classification of Ecosystems is easily recognizable on satellite images. Vegetation, complemented with ecological data (such as elevation, humidity, drainage, salinity of water and characteristics of water bodies), are each determining modifiers that separate partially distinct sets of species. This is true not only for plant species, but also for species of animals, fungi and bacteria. The degree of ecosystem distinction is subject to the physiognomic modifiers that can be identified on an image and/or in the field. Specific fauna elements can be added, such as periodic concentrations of animals and the distribution of coral reefs.

Satellite data facilitates the production of global land use and land cover maps, and geographic information systems (GIS) allows researchers to integrate satellite and population data efficiently. Increased human population often leads to greater influence on the environment and sharper declines in species and ecosystems. Land transformation probably poses the single greatest threat to biodiversity, resulting in habitat loss and/or fragmentation for wild species. Beyond its effects on the nearby area, it can have global consequences, such as worldwide changes.

Wildlife Conservation

Habitat Monitoring

Using high and medium resolution satellite remote-sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies to better understand relationships between species and the places they live gives the ability to routinely observe even the most remote areas which can make researchers search for important species and habitats quicker.

They can very quickly get a picture of where species might be distributed. If one were to send out survey teams alone, it might take many years to generate the level of information that satellites provide.

African Elephant LANDSAT Satellite Image of Tanzania

African Elephant

Landsat TM7 - Amboseli and Arusha National Park

Kenya and Tanzania, Africa

High resolution satellite imagery, remote sensing and GIS technology will improve the way endangered wildlife in highly inaccessible areas of the world is being monitored. To aid in the understanding of why and where species are being lost, Satellite or Aerial Imagery offers certain advantages such as watching vast areas of the earth all at once on a regular basis and by making temporal comparisons possible to analyze and monitor what is happening on the ground.

Up-to-date high resolution satellite, aerial images can directly observe species habitats and their environment over time which allows researchers to monitor any changes in an active GIS project and predict the best remaining areas to protect and manage.

Virunga National Parks

Kuryama the Mountain Gorilla 3D Satellite Image of Visoke Volcano - Rwanda

Kuryama the Mountain Gorilla

Photo Credit: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

3D Terrain Model - IKONOS

Visoke Volcano, DRC and Rwanda, Africa

Copyright © 2010 GeoEye. All rights reserved.

Satellite Imaging Corporation (SIC) in cooperation with the GeoEye Foundation (formerly Space Imaging) produced a 1m natural color IKONOS Satellite Image mosaic for an area covering the Virunga National Park in Congo (DRC), Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and the Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda.

The following news article will provide more details on this Wildlife Conservation project:

Satellite Imagery and GIS Technology Improve Wildlife Conservation in Virunga National Parks, Africa

To understand why and where species are being lost, satellite imagery offers certain advantages. They regularly see vast areas of the Earth all at once, making comparisons over time possible. Satellites can monitor everything from how much of the natural landscape humans clear each year for farmland or urban growth, to the frequency and severity of air pollution events, to increased ocean temperatures in sensitive coral habitat.

This IKONOS Satellite Image data set was produced to support GIS Wildlife Habitat mapping applications for the assessment, management and monitoring of the Mountain Gorilla Habitat and the Landcover Changes in and around the National Parks in the region.

The 1,067 Km2 IKONOS Satellite Image mosaic, with an Image resolution of 1m, was donated by The GeoEye Foundation and Satellite Imaging Corporation to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and various other wildlife conservation organizations working in the Virunga National Parks.

» Learn more about our conservation efforts at Virunga National Park and experience the 3D flythrough movie (18 MB) of the Visoke Volcano.

Marine and Coastal Conservation

Seafloor Mapping - Bahia, Brazil Coastal Mapping QuickBird Imagery of Hurghada, Egypt

Coral Reef Mapping — Bahia Brazil


Coastal Mapping

Landsat 7 TM

Hurghada, Egypt — Coastal Monitoring


© 2010 DigitalGlobe

Satellite imagery provides immediate and a broad view of targeted areas for marine and coastal conservation and detection it enables analysis over time and allows consistent monitoring of the biodiversity of our oceans.

Digital images allow analysts to monitor many living and non-living parameters in our marine and coastal environments. Remote sensing with satellite and aircraft-based sensors from satellite sensors such asGeoEye-1, WorldView-2, Worldview-1, QuickBird, IKONOS, Spot-5 and ASTER supports global inventories, assessment and analysis of:

  • Tropical marine habitats such as mangroves, coral reefs and ascertain threats to these systems such as deforestation and resulting sediment plumes into the coastal ocean.
  • Establishing models of ocean current connectivity between marine environments that can help in detecting potential "hot spots" (i.e., places of high biodiversity) as well as in focusing protection efforts on critical coastal habitats such as mangroves that seed other areas with fish and shellfish larvae.

Specific Marine Biodiversity Issues that lend themselves well to remote sensing technology

  • Monitor sargassum harvesting in open oceans.
  • Monitor fishing fleets for an assessment of fishing effort.
  • To produce indices of coral health (i.e., bleaching, mortality, cover, productivity).