Applications and limitations of remote sensing for threat analysis in protected areas: inferring anthropic pressure from habitat and land cover impacts

Authors and Affiliations: 

Carmela MARANGIc*, Harini NAGENDRAb, Paola MAIROTAc, Dino TORRId,  Richard LUCASe, Panayotis DIMOPOULOSf,  João Pradinho HONRADOg,  Madhura NIPHADKARa, Sander MÜCHERh, Valeria TOMASELLIi, Ioannis MANAKOSj, Palma BLONDAk


c*Istituto per le Applicazioni del Calcolo "Mauro Picone” (CNR-IAC), Via G. Amendola 122, 70126, Bari, Italy

bAshoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Royal Enclave, Srirampura, Jakkur Post, Bangalore 560064, Karnataka, India

cDipartimento di Scienze Agro-Ambientali e Territoriali, Università degli Studi di Bari “Aldo Moro”, Via Orabona, 4 – 70126 Bari, Italy

dNational Research Council – Geomorphology Research Group Institute (CNR-IRPI), Via Madonna Alta 126, 06128 Perugia, Italy

eInstitute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3DB, United Kingdom

fDepartment of Environmental and Natural Resources Management University of Ioannina, Seferi 2, 30100 Agrinio, Greece

gCIBIO-Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos & Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade do Porto, Rua do Campo Alegre, s/n, 4169-007 Porto, Portugal.

hAlterra, Wageningen UR,  Droevendaalsesteeg 3, 6708 PB, Wageningen, The Netherlands

iNational Research Council - Institute of Plant Genetics (CNR-IGV), Via G. Amendola 165/A, 70126, Bari, Italy

jCentre for Research and Technology Hellas, Greece

kNational Research Council - Institute of Intelligent Systems for Automation (CNR-ISSIA), Via G. Amendola 122, 70126, Bari, Italy


Protected areas are continuously subjected to ecological change due to anthropic pressures. Analyses of changes in the extent and intensity of pressures over time are essential for adaptive management, yet such analyses are rarely conceptualized or performed in a well-defined, standardized way, with a frequent lack of clarity in development, definition and measurement. Over-time remote sensing data has great potential for mapping spatial pattern of pressures and their impacts. Some pressures can be mapped directly (e.g. land use dynamics, some invasive species), whereas for others the nature, intensity and spatial pattern of impacts can be used to infer on pressures. This paper develops a framework within which remote sensing datasets in combination with GIS and ecological modeling may be used to identify potential pressure growth through either direct detection or indirect monitoring of impacts on landscapes, land cover/habitat types, communities and species through multi-temporal remote sensing image series. The use of this framework is illustrated through categorization of pressure-derived impacts on protected areas in six countries - Greece, Italy, Portugal, Wales, The Netherlands, and India – located in diverse biogeographic, environmental and social-ecological contexts, and facing a different range of pressures. The framework is conceptually robust, geographically invariant, scalable and spatially-explicit, connecting to the growing data sets from remote sources, and we urge it to be tested over a wide range of pressures and social-ecological settings.