SFU Geographer shakes up ecosystem monitoring with innovative remote sensing technologies

June 23, 2022

Simon Fraser University Geographer, Bing Lu, received an NSERC Discovery Grant and Launch Supplement to advance innovative processes to study and manage grasslands-wetlands using remote sensing technologies.

Grasslands and wetlands are essential to both ecological and economic functions providing vital habitats for plants and animals, and aid in human wellbeing. Over recent decades, these ecosystems have been heavily impacted by the effects of environmental changes.

Substantial research has been conducted on grasslands and wetlands to assess environmental degradation and habitat loss. However, these studies often view co-existing grasslands and wetlands as separate ecosystems rather than one mixed system, leaving gaps in our understanding of ecological functions of the system and the impacts that environmental disturbances like droughts, invasive species, and habitat loss will have.

Lu has received over $160,000 to utilize remote sensing technologies like optical, LiDAR, Radar, and thermal imaging for ecosystem monitoring to help bridge these gaps. These technologies make use of satellites, drones, and airplanes as imaging platforms to monitor variations in ecosystems at different spatial scales, and over different time periods and locations.

Incorporating these remote sensing methods, Lu will evaluate the status of grassland-wetland ecosystems, monitor the ecosystem loss and degradation using a long-time series of images, and assess how certain environmental disturbances impact ecosystem health and resilience.

Through this project, Lu aims to develop innovative ways to investigate the loss and decline of grasslands-wetlands, evaluate the effects of climate change on these areas, and inform ecosystem management going forward — while normalizing the use of these cutting-edge technologies for ecosystem monitoring.