Lab Canada

Canadian-US science pact to improve monitoring of land cover, biodiversity and climate change

Ottawa, ON – Natural Resources Canada and the US Department of the Interior’s Geological Survey have launched a high-tech satellite mapping initiative that can better monitor changes in the combined land cover of two of the world’s largest nations.

Using infrared, radar relief and other remote-sensing techniques, the partnership will produce integrated information that will help natural resources managers better assess the health of landscapes, cross-border wildland fire risks, changes in biodiversity and the effects of climate change on permafrost. This improved data will enable managers to develop more effective land-management policies.

“This agreement reflects a lengthy history of joint research and mutual collaboration between our two countries,” said Gary Lunn, Canada’s minister of natural resources. “Working together, this partnership will allow us to share information and maximize our scientific knowledge so that we can better monitor the changes of our land, including the permafrost areas in the North.”

“Natural processes like wildland fires do not stop at the border, so this type of information is critical for identifying land-cover trends,” said Dirk Kempthorne, US secretary of the interior. “This new international partnership will build on the expertise of both the Canadian and US science agencies and lead to a more comprehensive and standardized monitoring of North America’s land cover.”

The agreement involves a dynamic land-cover monitoring system for all of North America and the development of permafrost modelling applications. There are also future projects planned for longer-term collaboration on the development of radar applications.

The land-cover mapping initiative will be useful to both countries, for the tri-national (including Mexico) Commission for Environmental Cooperation and for international initiatives jointly undertaken by members of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). One of many examples of how unified North American land-cover mapping may be used is in monitoring wildfire risk across national borders.

Collaborative efforts in the development of permafrost applications will focus first on mapping the Yukon River basin. A key application in joint permafrost mapping will be assessing the impacts of climate change on human settlements, physical infrastructure and ecosystems in both countries.