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GIS and RS Technologies for Conservation of Nature

Starting in February 2011 an information center has been functioning within the “Transparent World” structure. It is intended for provision of operational information and resource GIS/RS support on current nature protection issues of public importance.

Requests, received from different concerned parties (stakeholders), are being processed: citizens, representatives of environmental NGOs, strictly protected nature reserves, public nature protection agencies and commercial companies.

Information center objectives:

  • Accumulation of received requests and related information on current nature protection issues, for which solution the application of GIS\RS technologies is a challenge;
  • Real-time requests processing;
  • Distribution of results obtained using GIS and RS technologies;
  • Wide application of server products as a basis for integration, analysis and visualization of spatial data;
  • Fine-tuning of possibility to introduce approaches using space imagery and GIS into the system of public control;
  • Organization of two-way data exchange with stakeholders to the benefit of the Society (with regular presentation of activity results on public resources);

*Interaction with stakeholders for the purpose of development and promotion of the Information Center.

Salmon fishery monitoring on Sakhalin Island

The Information Center started to operate in February 2011. Full support is lent by ScanEx RDC traditionally paying much attention to social projects.

Within the first year of operations the specialists of the information center processed over 70 requests: from consultations on GIS-software and space images to information support about the situation on sites.

GIS-tasks arising before the organizations may now be resolved by the specialists of the Environmental Watch of the Sakhalin (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk), Gebler Ecological Society (Barnaul), and Astrakhan State Natural Biosphere Reserve (Astrakhan).

For example, an employee of the regional public organization “Environmental Watch of Sakhalin” completed the training at the Information Center for skills enhancement and getting new knowledge on working with GIS-RS data. As a result, the borders of the Sakhalin Region protected natural area of regional significance were mapped, schemes of Sakhalin Region forestry procedures were created; data of Landsat 5/7 satellites and Terralook Aster products for 2009-2011 were received from open sources and prepared for usage; Sakhalin island fishery areas borders were mapped. 2010 archived SPOT 4/5 data, provided by ScanEx RDC, was analyzed for Pacific Salmon fishing gear installations. Out of 59 fish traps identified on space images, 24 were installed with violations of rules: the length exceeded the max limit, “the rule of perpendicular” was not observed, fish trap were installed closer to the river estuary than allowed. Demo report about the application of the satellite monitoring of fish traps, prepared based on 2010 space images, was submitted in early 2011 to the Sakhalin Region Fishery Agency, Sakhalin-Kurils Fisheries Department, Sakahlin Interregional Nature Protection Prosecutor’s Office and became the item of a serious talk with representatives of companies, whose fish traps in 2010 exceeded the specified length or had other violations of the fishing rules. During the 2011 salmon fishing season the satellite-based monitoring of the Pacific Salmon offshore fishery was conducted for the first time in the world practice by ScanEx RDC and the Sakhalin Environmental Watch.

The purpose of the project is the search and fine-tuning of an operational and efficient method of monitoring of abidance by the fishing rules for the Far Eastern fishery basin when installing fishing traps. The satellite monitoring is carried out based on analysis of optical high and middle resolution images from EROS B satellites (resolution – 0.7 m), SPOT 5 (2.5 m, 10 m) and SPOT 4 (10 m), as well as Landsat 5/7 and Terralook Aster images received from the archive of the US Geological Survey (

Application of highly detailed EROS B and SPOT 5 images became possible thanks to operational multiple imagery of the areas in July-September 2011 carried out by ScanEx RDC company. With respect to 55 dragnets and 59 fish traps of 36 legal entities with detected violations based on satellite data the authorities initiated inspections and revisions.

Space imagery for protected natural areas of Altai-Sayansky eco-region

In May 2011, the workshop-training was held for the employees of the Altai-Sayansky eco-region in the town of Abakan, dedicated to the remote sensing data application for monitoring changes in ecosystems of protected territories. The workshop organizers addressed to the NGO “Transparent World” for help in supplying space images. The Information Center employees selected the images, prepared narrations and recorded data to disks. As a result, each of the 12 protected natural areas of the region received archived multi-temporal optical space images at the workshop (Azas, Altai, Katun, Kuznetsky Alatau, Sayano-Shushensk, Khakassk, Tigereksk, Ubsunursk basin and Stolby nature reserves, Shorsky and Shushensky pine forest national parks, “Ergaki” nature park).

Monitoring water diversion in Dauriya

Water diversion of Hailar river into Dalai lake in trans-border Dauriya (Internal Mongolia, China) is not enough open to the public. Exchange of required data between Russian and Chinese parties is complicated. In this situation space images are one of the most unbiased and operational data sources about the condition within the water diversion area. In June 2011 the Information Center specialists prepared schematic maps based on SPOT 4 and Landsat 7 images for April-May 2011 covering the canal construction region for water diversion to Imin River. The information was given to the “Dauriya” International nature reserve employee and then used by the Russian delegation headed by the Deputy Head of the Water Resources Federal Agency V. Nikanorov during the official visit on June 13-15, 2011 to the town of Manjouli (China) to review the system of run-off flow diversion from Hailar river to Dalai lake.

Territorial disputes of the “Utrish” nature reserve

Starting June 2011 the Decree of the RF Ministry of Natural Resources from April 4, 2011 №196 came into effect. According to this decree the Provision on “Utrish” State Nature Reserve is amended in the part of its boundaries description. The Information Center specialists analyzed the introduced changes and created the schematic maps of the nature reserve. It turned out that according to the boundaries description the territory of the nature reserve is not in form of a single block – the reserve is split into 4 plots and a number of territories is excluded (the unique juniper-pistachio forest; 150 m wide corridors of approach roads to planned recreation activity sites, including the so-called “fire-protection forestry road”; riverside strip east of the Maly Utrish village). It was detected that part of roads, including this “fire-protection forestry road”, runs outside the limits of the specified corridors thus passing through the territory of the nature reserve (fig.1). The official conclusion of the NGO “Transparent World” specialists with illustrating the situation schematic maps of the nature reserve based on detailed SPOT 5 image, was handed in to the Greenpeace Russia and after that used in claim documents of the organization on contestation of the Ministerial Decree through the RF Supreme Court.

Fig. 1. Territory of the “Utrish” nature reserve, according to Attachment 1 to the Provision on State Nature Reserve “Utrish” (as amended as per RF Ministry of Natural Resources Decree from April 4, 2011, №196)

RS and GIS data as a source of unbiased information

Over 40 of other received and processed by the Information Center requests were FYIs: determination of the situation on the sites based on space images, change detection analysis of events and phenomena followed by handing in the results to interested parties to further use.

Very often it was about remote and hard-to-reach areas. For example, analysis of fire in “Ukok Rest Place” natural park, which is included in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites as “Golden Mountains of Altai”, was performed (fig. 2); assessment of gold mining legality on the territory of the World Heritage Site “Virgin forests of Komi” was made (fig. 3), preparation and participation in inspections of Greenpeace of Russia on the sites of oil spills in the Republic of Komi and in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area was carried out, etc.

Fig. 2. “Ukok Rest Place” natural park. Area passed by fire and planned route of the “Altai” gas pipeline

Fig. 3. “Yugyd va” national park, Republic of Komi. Borders of the cadastral sites and main mining facilities

In some cases the use of RS and GIS data was required for analysis of the situation near large settlements, for example, Moscow (public monitoring of toll roads construction in Moscow and Moscow Region; analysis of reclaimed lands construction in Moscow Region; analysis of nature protection value of forests between Nikolsko-Arkhangelsky and Dzhershunsky micro-districts , conducted upon the request of local inhabitants due to multi-storey quarter construction planning project on the territory of the forest, etc.).

In most cases the need to use RS and GIS data was caused by the fact that construction projects were not duly coordinated and discussed with citizens and public organizations and no full presentation of project activities was made officially, or there were cases with no or incorrect information delivered, restriction of access for citizens to up-to-date data. Space images gave impartial and modern information about the construction status, helping to understand the “big picture” of a project.

The mission of the NGO “Transparent World” Information Center is to increase the transparency in the activities of the nature resources users and in support of nature protection organizations applying GIS and RS tools.

More information about the projects, implemented by the Information Center, is available by studying the materials, represented on the thematic map: Requests from citizens and organizations are accepted to the following e-mail address: (attn of: “Information Center”).

by Е.Tsybikova1
1 Specialist, NGO “Transparent World”,, e-mail: