Remote sensing of vegetation in the Sudano-Sahelian zone: A literature review from 1975 to 2014

Photo: Daniel Tiveau CIFOR (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Remote sensing of vegetation in the Sudano-Sahelian zone: A literature review from 1975 to 2014

Martin Karlson and Madelene Ostwald were published in Journal of Arid Environments.

Read the full article here 


Scarcity of in situ vegetation data inhibits research and natural resource management in the Sudano-Sahelian zone (SSZ). Satellite and aerial remote sensing (RS) constitute key technologies for improving the availability of vegetation data, and consequently the preconditions for scientific analysis and monitoring. The aim of this paper was to investigate how the hands-on application of RS for vegetation analysis has developed in the SSZ by reviewing the scientific literature published between 1975 and 2014. The paper assesses the usages and the users of RS by focusing on four aspects of the material (268 peer-reviewed articles), including publication details (time of publication, scientific discipline of journals and author nationality), geographic information (location of study areas and spatial scale of research), data usage (application of RS systems and procedures for accuracy assessments), and research topic (scientific objective of the research).

Three key results were obtained:
i) the application of RS to analyze vegetation in the SSZ has increased consistently since 1977 and it seems to become adopted by a growing number of scientific disciplines;
ii) the contribution of African authors is low, potentially signalling a need for an increased transfer of knowledge and technology from developed countries;
RS has primarily been used to analyze changes in vegetation productivity and broad vegetation types, whereas its use for studying interactions between vegetation and environmental factors has been relatively low. This calls for stronger collaborative RS research that enables the mapping of additional vegetation variables of high relevance for the environmental problems facing the SSZ. Remotely sensed vegetation data are needed at spatial scales that suits the requirements of both research and natural resource management in order to further enhance the usefulness of this technology.



Remote sensing; Vegetation; Drylands; Sudano-Sahel; Monitoring; Natural resource management


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