Remote sensing training in African conservation

De Klerk, H. M. ; Buchanan, Graeme (2017-01)

CITATION: De Klerk, H.M. & Buchanan, G. 2017. Remote sensing training in African conservation. Remote sensing in Ecology and conservation, 3:(7-20). doi:10.1002/rse2.36.

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The potential of remote sensing (RS) to assist with conservation planning, implementation and monitoring is well described, and particularly relevant in African areas that are inaccessible due to terrain, finances or politics. We provide an African perspective on remote sensing (RS) training for conservation and ecology over the last decade through investigating (1) recent use of RS in African conservation literature, (2) use of RS in African conservation agencies, (3) RS training by African institutions and (4) RS capacity development by ad hoc events. Africa does not produce most of the research using RS in conservation and ecological studies conducted on Africa, with authors with correspondence addresses in the USA predominating (33% of a bibliometric analysis), although South Africa-based authors constituted 20% (with an increase between 2000 and 2015), Kenya 6% and Tanzania and Ethiopia 4% each. Ideally research should be conducted close to the point of use to ensure relevance and data residence in the country concerned. This is a point for attention, possibly through international funding to increase the capacity of African academic institutions to conduct research using RS to answer conservation questions. Part of this will need to include attention on data and software costs, internet speeds and human capacity. Data costs have been alleviated by free Landsat and MODIS data, and the Copernicus programs, but there is need for higher resolution imagery to be freely available for certain conservation projects. Open Source software may well offer a long-term solution to software costs. This would require that teaching is realigned to employer requirements, which are shifting in many countries and agencies from proprietary software to Open Source due to licensing costs. Low internet connectivity in many areas of Africa might limit the uptake of new data processing options that require connectivity, although over time these tools may become available to more users. However, human capacity is developing. Of the 72 academic institutions surveyed, a number of conservation programs supplied either tailored RS teaching or used ‘service modules’ to provide RS skills to young graduating conservation professionals, showing a recognition of the importance of RS in conservation in Africa. This study highlights the success of capacity development in Africa, and the increasing use of remote sensing for conservation in Africa.

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