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Sahara's edge studied from ground, air and space to improve water management

lt by DLR, which can acquire imagery at differing radar wavelengths and polarisations, and the Airborne Visible Imaging and Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIS), built by the University of Munich, which gathers additional environmental and vegetation information by observing across dozens of spectral bands invisible to the human eye.

"The hyperspectral and radar data of AquiferEx will allow refined land use and land cover mapping," explained Aquifer Project Manager Stefan Saradeth, of Munich-based GAF AG. "From there it is planned to derive improved estimates of water consumption in agriculturally-utilised areas. AquiferEx also provides a baseline dataset for the validation of other Aquifer results, and the hyperspectral and radar data will be used to develop a range of science products, demonstrating future development lines and showing the potential of new sensors."

At the same time as the Dornier was flying out of Tunisia's Djerba International Airport, Tunisian and European participants on the ground gathered information including the size and position of fields, local topography, the soil surface characteristics and vegetation type, distribution and parameters such as leaf area index and wet and dry biomass. Measurements had to be as authoritative as possible, for example close-up three-dimensional photographs were taken of plant rows and soil roughness while sap flow measurements made for olive trees. Samples were analysed in Tunisian laboratories and weather conditions were also documented.

"The conditions for the ground teams were a lot rougher," said Rolf Scheiber of DLR, who manages the AquiferEx project. "The southern test site of Ben Gardane is a pretty remote place and it took the ground team quite some time to reach it. The accessibility within the site was also restricted?even using four wheel drive cars, the northern part of the site could not be reached due to shallow water obstacles. In general, without the cooperation an
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Source:European Space Agency


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