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Satellite Remote Sensing for Cultural and Natural Heritage: Assessing Copernicus Sentinels and Contributing Missions Added Value

A special issue of Remote Sensing (ISSN 2072-4292). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Remote Sensing".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 December 2023) | Viewed by 10267

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Architecture, Built Environment and Construction Engineering, Milan, Italy
Interests: photogrammetry; earth observation; optical multi-spectral image processing; laser scanner data processing; GIS; cultural heritage; cultural landscapes
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC), National Research Council (CNR), Via del Fosso del Cavaliere 100, 00133 Rome, Italy
Interests: landscape evolution; geophysical hazards; archaeology; cultural heritage; remote sensing; earth observation; InSAR; landslides; land subsidence; ground instability
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Romanian Space Agency, 21-25 Mendeleev Street, 010362 Bucharest, Romania
Interests: earth observation; radar remote sensing; cultural heritage; SAR interferometry; digital elevation model; disaster risk management; mapping

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Romanian Space Agency, 21-25 Mendeleev Street, 010362 Bucharest, Romania
Interests: earth observation; multispectral remote sensing; cultural heritage; geospatial information; cartographic modelling; disaster risk management; land cover and land use

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Italian Space Agency (ASI), Via del Politecnico snc, 00133 Rome, Italy
Interests: earth observation; radar and optical remote sensing; InSAR; time series analysis; earth sciences; environmental geology; natural hazards; urban environments; geoheritage; geoconservation; cultural heritage
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Cultural and Natural Heritage (CNH) has a major significance for local communities, and symbolizes the legacy and resource that will be passed on to future generations. CNH has therefore a critical value in building the local identity and strengthening the regional growth and development, and is included in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. There is a wide consensus about the usefulness of satellite technologies to support the study, documentation and systematic monitoring for protection and sustainable maintenance of CNH.  Copernicus satellite data from the Sentinels and Contributing Missions, as well as their derived products, satisfy CNH user requirements and prove high potential to stimulate substantial growth of the Cultural Heritage downstream applications and market. For example, Copernicus Emergency Management (CEMS) and SECURITY services have already included dedicated sections for Cultural Heritage monitoring, while the community is looking forward to the potential benefits that will be provided by some specific products of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). Furthermore, various initiatives have been launched by ESA and national space agencies to support the development of downstream applications in the CNH sector.

In this context, this Special Issue would like to explore how the community including EO scientists, CNH experts and institutional bodies has progressed in the scientific exploitation of Copernicus satellite data. In particular, the focus will be given to the combination with cutting edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to provide further benefits to professionals involved in the field of CNH but also to larger interested public, education and research sector. Therefore, papers on the above topics are welcome, including full articles aiming to expand the presentations made during the thematic session on Cultural and Natural Heritage held at Living Planet Symposium 2022 (LPS22).

Specific topics of interest for this Special Issue include, but are not limited to:

  • Solutions based on the exploitation of Copernicus Sentinels and contributing missions, and/or Third Party Missions data, as well as exploitation of AI, ML, thematic platforms, cloud computing resources and infrastructure, collaborative environments;
  • Benefits from the use of Copernicus products and services, also in relation to impacts due to climate change and towards future resilience in CHN management;
  • Use cases addressing specific user requirements and needs in the field of either CNH discovery, study, monitoring, preservation or cultural/touristic promotion;
  • Practical examples of EO integration in operational systems, workflows and processes on CNH;
  • Downstream applications, with a focus on multidisciplinary collaboration and partnerships between heritage institutions, academia and commercial providers;
  • Initiatives of capacity building towards user uptake by the CNH community and end-users. 

Dr. Branka Cuca
Dr. Francesca Cigna
Dr. Iulia Dana Negula
Dr. Cristian Moise
Dr. Deodato Tapete
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Remote Sensing is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • satellite Earth observation
  • copernicus program
  • SAR interferometry (InSAR)
  • multispectral and hyperspectral remote sensing
  • integrated methods
  • machine learning
  • cultural landscapes
  • cultural heritage sites

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

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43 pages, 15240 KiB  
Article
Integrating Copernicus Satellite Products and Ground-Truthing for Documenting and Monitoring the Impact of the 2022 Extreme Floods in Pakistan on Cultural Heritage
by Muhammad Younis Khan, Federico Zaina, Sher Muhammad and Deodato Tapete
Remote Sens. 2023, 15(10), 2518; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs15102518 - 10 May 2023
Viewed by 1983
Abstract
The catastrophic floods that hit Pakistan in summer 2022 represent the latest example of climate change-induced extreme events occurring in South Asia. In addition to the dramatic impact on population and infrastructures, this event threatened UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS) and properties of [...] Read more.
The catastrophic floods that hit Pakistan in summer 2022 represent the latest example of climate change-induced extreme events occurring in South Asia. In addition to the dramatic impact on population and infrastructures, this event threatened UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS) and properties of national interest. However, while a wealth of national and international mapping initiatives were conducted based on satellite imagery to assess damage to people, buildings and economic goods, the impact caused to archaeological sites and monuments has not been fully unveiled yet. To bridge this gap and provide an integrated approach that can be used by local end-users to assess damage and, in turn, collect evidence to inform and improve risk management plans, the present paper integrates Sentinel-1 and 2 imagery and mapping products derived from them (e.g., Copernicus Emergency Management Service Global Flood Mapping) with ground-truthing and geospatial datasets. Through a multidisciplinary collaboration between geologists, archaeologists, remote sensing and satellite image analysts, the integration methodology was tested on UNESCO and other heritage sites of national relevance located in the two mostly affected regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh that were intentionally selected to represent different typologies of cultural heritage and governance in Pakistan. Finally, the information extracted from the present analysis was assessed in relation to the current national and international legislations, the official state of conservation reports and the activities conducted at each site to protect them against flood events. Given the accessibility to ready-to-use Copernicus products and that the present analysis can be replicated over time and other sites, the proposed methodology provides a feasible means to exploit satellite data in post-disaster mapping situations and contribute to the decision-making process for risk management. Full article
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19 pages, 9837 KiB  
Article
An Algorithm to Detect Endangered Cultural Heritage by Agricultural Expansion in Drylands at a Global Scale
by Francesc C. Conesa, Hector A. Orengo, Agustín Lobo and Cameron A. Petrie
Remote Sens. 2023, 15(1), 53; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs15010053 - 22 Dec 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3197
Abstract
This article presents AgriExp, a remote-based workflow for the rapid mapping and monitoring of archaeological and cultural heritage locations endangered by new agricultural expansion and encroachment. Our approach is powered by the cloud-computing data cataloguing and processing capabilities of Google Earth Engine and [...] Read more.
This article presents AgriExp, a remote-based workflow for the rapid mapping and monitoring of archaeological and cultural heritage locations endangered by new agricultural expansion and encroachment. Our approach is powered by the cloud-computing data cataloguing and processing capabilities of Google Earth Engine and it uses all the available scenes from the Sentinel-2 image collection to map index-based multi-aggregate yearly vegetation changes. A user-defined index threshold maps the first per-pixel occurrence of an abrupt vegetation change and returns an updated and classified multi-temporal image aggregate in almost-real-time. The algorithm requires an input vector table such as data gazetteers or heritage inventories, and it performs buffer zonal statistics for each site to return a series of spatial indicators of potential site disturbance. It also returns time series charts for the evaluation and validation of the local to regional vegetation trends and the seasonal phenology. Additionally, we used multi-temporal MODIS, Sentinel-2 and high-resolution Planet imagery for further photo-interpretation of critically endangered sites. AgriExp was first tested in the arid region of the Cholistan Desert in eastern Pakistan. Here, hundreds of archaeological mound surfaces are threatened by the accelerated transformation of barren lands into new irrigated agricultural lands. We have provided the algorithm code with the article to ensure that AgriExp can be exported and implemented with little computational cost by academics and heritage practitioners alike to monitor critically endangered archaeological and cultural landscapes elsewhere. Full article
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Review

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33 pages, 5478 KiB  
Review
Monitoring of Damages to Cultural Heritage across Europe Using Remote Sensing and Earth Observation: Assessment of Scientific and Grey Literature
by Branka Cuca, Federico Zaina and Deodato Tapete
Remote Sens. 2023, 15(15), 3748; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs15153748 - 27 Jul 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1733
Abstract
This research is part of a wider framework of index literature studies that have been conducted in the past few years. Some of these have had a focus on specific remote sensing (RS) technologies, while others have tackled specific threats to cultural heritage [...] Read more.
This research is part of a wider framework of index literature studies that have been conducted in the past few years. Some of these have had a focus on specific remote sensing (RS) technologies, while others have tackled specific threats to cultural heritage and landscapes. By considering both damages to heritage sites and technologies used for documentation and the monitoring of such occurrences, this paper unveils the current trends on a global scale in the study of the threats to heritage caused by both human-induced and natural hazards. Papers published by Europe-based researchers over the last 20 years using RS and Earth Observation (EO) techniques were surveyed alongside recommendations and programmatic documents issued by institutions in charge of heritage protection and management of several countries in Europe. Around 300 documents, including scientific articles (published from 2000 until 2022) and Grey literature (from 2008 and 2022), were analysed. The data collection and analysis were undertaken by a working group that was intentionally composed to bring together diverse perspectives and expertise, i.e., requirements of heritage professionals using RS and EO technologies, knowledge on technologies and their use in the field, and expertise in methodology implementation to support heritage management. The results highlight the type of hazards considered the most and the geographical distribution of the archaeological sites and monuments targeted by these studies; the countries the researchers are affiliated with; the types of RS and specifically satellite-based technologies used (and hence the type of data used); the tendencies of satellite data usage—visual interpretation, image processing, employment of machine learning, and AI; the technologies most applied by public institutions and practitioners; and many others. Recommendations and future trajectories are then outlined to efficiently reframe discrepancies between types of damage that have received the greatest attention in the literature and the most impactful ones in terms of the number of sites damaged. Full article
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Other

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10 pages, 1730 KiB  
Technical Note
Arctic Heritage at Risk: Insights into How Remote Sensing, Robotics and Simulation Can Improve Risk Analysis and Enhance Safety
by Bryan Lintott and Gareth Rees
Remote Sens. 2023, 15(3), 675; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs15030675 - 23 Jan 2023
Viewed by 1625
Abstract
Increased and enhanced utilisation of remote sensing and robotics in the Arctic can further enhance cultural safety and well-being and reduce the risks posed to archaeologists, heritage workers and others in the field. In this preliminary scoping survey, the authors review the current [...] Read more.
Increased and enhanced utilisation of remote sensing and robotics in the Arctic can further enhance cultural safety and well-being and reduce the risks posed to archaeologists, heritage workers and others in the field. In this preliminary scoping survey, the authors review the current use of these technologies and consider a range of related issues, from cultural safety to nefarious use by criminals. Initial discussions with experts have informed areas of concern; and the potential for further integration. In the future, the University of Tromsø’s new Tromsø Arctic Simulation Integration Centre (TASIC) will be utilised to evaluate a range of scenarios to inform risk analysis and contribute towards safety enhancement in the Arctic Heritage at Risk Project (Arctic-HARP). The following is an overview of the significant state-of-the-art technologies and related matters. Full article
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