Application of remote and in situ information to the management of wetlands in Poland

J Environ Manage. 2009 May;90(7):2261-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2008.02.009. Epub 2008 Apr 18.


The protection and regeneration of wetlands has been of crucial importance as a goal in ecological research and in nature conservation for some time and is more important than ever now. Knowledge about the biophysical properties of wetlands' vegetation retrieved from satellite images enables us to improve the monitoring of these unique areas, which are otherwise very often impenetrable and therefore difficult to examine, analyze and assess by means of site visits. The Biebrza Wetlands are situated in the North-East part of Poland and are one of the largest areas made up of marshes and swamps in the entire EU. This is still one of the wildest areas and one of the least destroyed, damaged or changed by human impact. However, in the recent decades there have been attempts made to intensify and overexploit the natural resources of the region and implement new agriculture practices in the area. In this period, drainage canals have been built, and a good deal of the area has been drained. The area of this precious ecosystem covers 25 494 ha. This valuable area of peat with unique vegetation species and with very special birds is one of the most valuable areas in Europe and in 1995 was added to the list of Ramsar sites. The investigation of wetlands in the Biebrza River Valley has been carried out at ground level by taking measurements of soil moisture, evapotranspiration, Leaf Area Index, wet and dry biomass and the levels of ground water and meteorological parameters. Also examined were radiative temperature, detailed vegetation mapping, and APAR. For some years the deterioration of peat lands has been noticed due to the drying out of the area and the frequent outbreak of fires. The consequence is the succession of new vegetation and the appearance of new ecosystems. The Remote Sensing Centre in the Institute of Geodesy and Cartography has undertaken the investigation by applying ERS-2.SAR and ENVISAT ASAR of IS2 and IS4 and VV, HH, HV polarization for the purpose of modeling soil moisture and humidity changes of the area under investigation. The investigation also aimed at finding the best biophysical properties of wetlands' vegetation to characterize marshland habitats and its changes. At the same time as registering the microwave data, the optical data from Landsat ETM+, SPOT VEGETATION, ERS-2.ATSR, ENVISAT MERIS, and NOAA/AVHRR have been registered and information about the biomass and heat fluxes as sensible and latent heat has also been calculated. The vegetation indices are calculated from EO satellite data taking into account jointly the features of vegetation responsible for reflection in various bands and combining this information from several spectral bands. Also, the changes in the humidity of the area have been examined by extracting the backscattering coefficients from two SAR images that were taken at a similar period of the year but with a gap of 5 years. The information about soil moisture as retention, soil moisture changes, heat fluxes and evapotranspiration are all very important for estimates of CO(2) sequestration. The ENVISAT images have been obtained for the ESA AO-ID122 project. Also the SMOS and ALOS data will be applied for the Biebrza Wetlands in the future.

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Poland
  • Satellite Communications
  • Wetlands*