- Space technologies like no other "globalize" the universe surrounding us: by virtue of the fundamental physical laws navigation, communications, Earth observations are unprofitable and inexpedient for any individual country, while satellites can easily be placed anywhere above the planet, without requiring any extra energy and resources.


Naturally, it is national space agencies, interstate and scientific schools and conventions that become leaders focusing on introduction of programs vital to our existence on the Earth.


In the success of the global programs of climate change, conservation of water resources and biological diversity, food and environmental security of the past decades the remote sensing methods and approaches have played a decisive role.


While putting such scientific results into practice, the developed methods and algorithms are facing the need in a constructive dialogue with socio-economic, cultural, historical, financial and political mechanisms of approbation and application of approaches in everyday life.


Programs of future decades, such as Future Earth, are devoted to the interactions between scientists, politicians, financiers, economists and environmentalists with a view to creating a harmonious and sustainable habitat, education and parenting of future generations.


The effect of the introduction of such approaches will depend primarily on the development of local centres of expertize, which may become informational and institutional grounds of acquiring new knowledge and economics.


We hope that this issue of the "Earth from space" magazine will help the International Geographical Union give a substantial positive impulse to processes being discussed.


 Nikolay Kasimov, Dr.Sc. (Geography), Professor,
Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences,
President of Faculty of Geography, M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University,
first Vice-President of the Russian Geographical Society


You can download or read articles, published in this special issue, from Scientific Electronic Library eLIBRARY.RU by reference >>>


Editor’s note. Nikolay Kasimov


Using Earth observations to support better decisions on global priorities. Barbara J. Ryan
Established in 2005, the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is a global partnership of governments and organizations that envisions a future where major decisions and actions are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations. GEO Member governments include 97 nations and the European Commission, and 87 Participating Organizations comprised of international bodies with a mandate or interest in Earth observations.

Future Earth: global environmental change research engagement platform to address major challenges to the Earth system. Dennis S. Ojima
Future Earth is a global platform for enhancing fundamental research on the earth system and supports research to enable transformations toward sustainability. Future Earth provides an integrated research agenda on major global change challenges through partnerships between researchers and users of research to share and to generate knowledge that contributes to improved understanding of the earth system and toward more sustainable usage of earth system resources.

Earth observations for sustainable development: perspectives from the developing world. Senay Habtezion
Geospatial technologies could play a significant role in the development and strengthening of national policy and decision-making. Yet, their application in environmental policy support has been rather limited, especially in developing countries, where Earth observations is a relatively young domain and the uptake and usage of geospatial science and technology is constrained by capacity and institutional handicaps. This paper presents a brief summary of insights on the environmental policy support role of Earth observations based on six case studies coordinated by the Global Change System for Analysis, Research and Training (START).

Open landscape partnership platform: an eye in the sky and thousands on the ground. Dr. Andrey Kushlin, Dmitry Aksenov
Bringing together the Open Data agenda and the Sustainable Landscapes approach, SCANEX Holding (www.scanex.com) and Transparent World (transparentworld.org) have partnered with Global Forest Watch (globalforestwatch.org) and other international initiatives and organizations to launch the Open Landscape Partnership Platform (openlandscape.info) – a high-resolution, crowd-mapping platform for globally consistent and locally relevant cross-sectoral collaborations to monitor hotspots and inform projects.

Long-term agricultural land-cover change and potential for cropland expansion in the former Virgin Lands area of Kazakhstan. Roland Kraemer, Alexander V Prishchepov, Daniel Müller, Tobias Kuemmerle, Volker C Radeloff, Andrey Dara, Alexey Terekhov and Manfred Frühauf
During the Soviet Virgin Lands Campaign, approximately 23 million hectares (Mha) of Eurasian steppe grassland were converted into cropland in Northern Kazakhstan from 1954 to 1963. As a result Kazakhstan became an important breadbasket of the former Soviet Union. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 triggered widespread agricultural abandonment, and much cropland reverted to grasslands. Our goal in this study was to reconstruct and analyze agricultural land-cover change since the eve of the Virgin Lands Campaign, from 1953 to 2010 in Kostanay Province, a region that is representative of Northern Kazakhstan. Further, we assessed the potential of currently idle cropland for re-cultivation. We reconstructed the cropland extent before and after the Virgin Lands Campaign using archival maps, and we mapped the agricultural land cover in the late Soviet and post-Soviet period using multi-seasonal Landsat TM/ETM+ images from circa 1990, 2000 and 2010. Cropland extent peaked at approximately 3.1 Mha in our study area in 1990, 38% of which had been converted from grasslands from 1954 to 1961. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, 45% of the Soviet cropland was abandoned and had reverted to grassland by 2000. After 2000, cropland contraction and re-cultivation were balanced. Using spatial logistic regressions we found that cropland expansion during the Virgin Lands Campaign was significantly associated with favorable agro-environmental conditions. In contrast, cropland expansion after the Campaign until 1990, as well as cropland contraction after 1990, occurred mainly in areas that were less favorable for agriculture. Cropland re-cultivation after 2000 was occurring on lands with relatively favorable agro-environmental conditions in comparison to remaining idle croplands, albeit with much lower agro-environmental endowment compared to stable croplands from 1990 to 2010. In sum, we found that cropland production potentials of the currently uncultivated areas are much lower than commonly believed, and further cropland expansion is only possible at the expense of marginal lands. Our results suggest if increasing production is a goal, improving crop yields in currently cultivated lands should be a focus, whereas extensive livestock grazing as well as the conservation of non-provisioning ecosystem services and biodiversity should be priority on more marginal lands.
In English this article is available by the reference:  http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/10/5/054012/article

UNIGEO consortium — we help each otherMarina Raskladkina
University Geoportals Consortium (UNIGEO) was established in April 2011. It currently brings together 31 universities of the Russian Federation, in which there are more than 20 centers for reception and processing of satellite images (space monitoring centers). Data received by the university stations from more than a dozen RS satellites, have been actively used in education, scientific research and production activities.

Non-profit environmental projects of “SCANEX” group. Natalia Evtushenko, Alena Cheremisova Artem Nikitsky
Specialists of SCANEX company has been conducting a number of environmental protection projects and explore unique territories of Russia. Activities are based on the use of satellite technology and geoportal solutions. Integrated maps are being drawn using the geoportal, which allow combining the results of the satellite images analysis and AIS data, which in near-real-time provide full information about the ship, its location and course line. Multilevel geoinformation approach allows for the synthesis of new information about the monitoring target and for its quick transfer to all interested persons.

New insights in remote sensing applications to obtain information about water bodiesDenis Aibulatov, Leonid Zotov, Nataly Frolova, Sergei Chalov
Multi-year experience of applying ERS data at the Hydrology Department of the Lomonosov Moscow State University demonstrated their high information value and efficiency when addressing a variety of global and local hydrological tasks. They can be extremely useful in determining the status of water bodies of different scale, parameterizations of different river runoff characteristics in order to highlight the ranges of their change, corresponding to dangerous hydrological events, in assessing the impact of climate change on water resources and the nature of hydrological processes.

Urban heat islands study using thermal infrared remote sensing dataElena Baldina, Paul Konstantinov, Mikhail Grischenko, Mikhail Varentsov
Space images of Earth obtained in infrared thermal band, enable to obtain new information on the spatial features of the urban heat island (UHI) - the micro-climatic phenomenon, which impacts the environment of urban areas. Spatial features of urban heat island formation located at different latitudes, are studied based on a series of multi-temporal satellite images in infrared thermal band. The success of similar methods of studying UHI, as compared to direct measurements, is being discussed and argued nowadays.

Airborne hyperspectral imagery and field survey data for precision farming. Anna Derkacheva, Olga Tutubalina, Mikhail Zimin, Senior Researcher, Yelena Golubeva
Hyperspectral data from aircrafts are very promising for high-resolution mapping of vegetation characteristics. The study examines the vegetation indexes as a tool of such mapping and the process of choosing the most representative indices to get the crops characteristics at the Menkov experimental station (South of the Leningrad Region). Errors of determining the characteristics based on airborne data using the ground spectrometry data and laboratory analyses of samples from experimental plots as a reference were estimated.

Study of the cryogenic processes dynamics in permafrost zone using remote sensing dataAlexander Kizyakov, Мarina Leibman, Mikhail Zimin, Anton Sonyushkin, Artem Khomutov
With the assistance of aerial photo and satellite images new data were obtained related to thermal abrasion and thermal denudation rates in the conditions of tabular ground ice exposure in the western sector of the Russian Arctic area – on the coasts of Kolguev Island and Yugorsky Peninsula. Within the frames of the gas emission crater on Yamal Peninsula DEMs were created based on high-resolution stereo imagery data of 2013 and 2014 as of "before" and "after" the crater formation and relief morphometric characteristics were received.