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Remote Sensing in vegetation management

Official designation of the project: Use of Remote Sensing in the forest vegetation management of Alentejo and Algarve


Start date: November 2, 2021
Completion date: March 1, 2022


Detailed description: Portugal's geographical situation, vegetation type and global climate situation have dictated a new era with regard to environmental and social catastrophes, particularly forest fires, which makes it essential to implement a forest defense strategy, which passes through all the owners of buildings, structures and land adjacent to them, through vegetation management and other safety rules.

By vegetation management, it is understood the reduction of plant and woody material, in order to make the spread of fire more difficult. At the local level, municipal plans for forest protection against fires, forest intervention zones  and forest management plans are developed.

The management of these areas requires continuous observation of the conditions of the vegetation in order to proceed with the respective cleaning and maintenance of these strips, and since this condition is influenced by climatic factors and is constantly changing, this plan must be carried out periodically, requiring the intervention of various stakeholders, such as City Councils, forest workers, among others.

According to current legislation, fuel management around buildings and population centers is mandatory, so vegetation management must be carried out in a minimum range of 50 meters around existing buildings or infrastructure in rural areas. In the case of population agglomerations, this protection strip can extend up to 100 meters, if this is determined in the municipal plan to protect the forest against fires. A significant part of the national electricity network, which corresponds to more than 28 thousand kilometers of overhead lines (7 times the perimeter of Portugal), is also present in forest areas.

With the aim of guaranteeing the safety of populations and electrical networks and improving the quality of service across the continent, EDP Distribuição works actively in the defense and protection of forest patrimony. Over the last ten years, more than 61 million euros have been invested in protection zones and vegetation management strips.

Using remote sensing techniques, LS-Engenharia Geográfica, in collaboration with the Eiffage Group, started in December 2021 a program of observation and assessment of forest strips, over tens of kilometers in length. The use of multispectral images obtained from orbital sensors and autonomous flight vehicles (high resolution) makes it possible to assess the condition and density of vegetation and also to produce three-dimensional models, with the purpose of identifying minimum safety distances to power lines. Through the use of the images obtained and the use of specific algorithms, it is possible to evaluate large areas and obtain medium or high resolution data, in order to plan new interventions or determine where they have already occurred and whether or not they were successful.

These data are finally stored in a Geographic Information System and used in combination with existing cartography in various formats and national cartographic projection systems, and can also be used on mobile computing devices, which allows them to be consulted anywhere and in a variety of situations. specific.


Challenges: Spatial resolution can be a disadvantage when using multispectral satellite imagery


Advantages: Large geographic coverage, short revisit period, high accuracy in determining minimum safety distances (using UAV).


Intervention areas: Remote Sensing

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