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Vulnerable regions in West Africa identified through space technology

A group of international researchers led by Professor Heiko Balzter (pictured) from the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research has used space satellite technology to identify regions of West Africa which are vulnerable to the effects of land degradation through climate change.

The research was carried out as part of the thesis of a PhD student from Nigeria, Yahaya Zayyana Ibrahim, who set out to investigate the areas affected by land degradation in the region from 1982-2012.

The team studied land degradation in Sub-Saharan West Africa, covering an area of approximately 6,140,000 km2, using statistical residual trend analysis (RESTREND) of vegetation photosynthetic capacity data (GIMMS NDVI3g), soil moisture and rainfall measured by satellites.

Yahaya Ibrahim, who carried out the RESTREND analysis and produced the satellite maps, said: “The results of this study highlight the importance of soil moisture in understanding vegetation dynamics in Sub-Saharan West Africa and it can be used as a more reliable indicator of land degradation and vegetation recovery than instantaneous rainfall."

The study ‘Land Degradation Assessment using Residual Trend Analysis of GIMMS NDVI3g, Soil Moisture and Rainfall in Sub-Saharan West Africa from 1982-2012’, is published in the academic journal Remote Sensing.

The research was supported by the University of Leicester and Professor Heiko Balzter was supported by the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award and the National Centre for Earth Observation.

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