Science - February 2, 2006

Help for mangrove forests

With difficult fieldwork in the inaccessible mangrove forests of Thailand, PhD researcher Chackoke Vaiphasa has developed new techniques to identify different mangrove species from space.

Mangrove forests are endangered, but their degradation is monitored only on a small scale using satellite images from space. ‘The mangroves are a neglected ecosystem,’ explains supervisor Professor Andy Skidmore of the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) in Enschede. ‘It is difficult to get into the forests and conduct fieldwork to verify the remote sensing images and to classify the mangrove species.’
Vaiphasa had the perseverance needed for the difficult fieldwork and he was rewarded with two new discoveries for his doctoral research. He was able to bundle the three to four hundred information channels in remote sensing images into groups. And thanks to fieldwork he was able to discover the relationships between images from space and the tide, sedimentation and situation on the ground, for example. By combining both discoveries, researchers can now distinguish between different types of mangrove forests from space. This makes it possible to monitor the endangered mangroves in the tropical coastal regions more effectively and on a larger scale. Chaichoke Vaiphasa received his PhD on 31 January under Professor Andy Skidmore, Professor of Vegetation and Agricultural Land Use Survey at ITC, and Professor Herbert Prins, Professor of Resource Ecology. / MW