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The challenge

The impact of urbanisation on the natural environment and environmental services

Key considerations for planners and policy makers today is the impact of urbanisation on the natural environment. Environmental factors such as air and water quality management, economic viability, urban heat islands and population density are also examined. Quantitative information on the changing and natural built composition of cities is crucial for planning for service provision, resource allocation and regulatory compliance. It also assists with future modelling, using data collected on the future impact of planning alternatives and the success of past programs.

Urban Monitor™ developed by CSIRO's Data61 Remote Sensing and Image Integration team, addresses the absence of cost effective and detailed landcover information by establishing monitoring baselines and detailed time-series' of landcover information. High-performance computing solutions are applied to collect information from commonly acquired, and globally active, aerial and space-borne sensors.

Our response

Combining land cover statistics with spatial data

Urban and peri-urban areas contain various land surfaces such as roofs, irrigated and non-irrigated trees, bushes and lawns. Each surface has an impact on the hydrological and energy cycle. These impacts vary in complex ways as the surfaces change over time.

Urban Monitor™ can monitor variations in these surfaces at high precision (e.g 0.1 to 0.3m), recording their presence, area, condition, volume and height above the ground or sea level. Digital aerial photography, routinely collected by governments to produce images. Urban Monitor™ can then fully utilise the data's quantitative potential.

Urban Monitor™ geometrically and radiometrically calibrates and analyses the data collected using feature extraction algorithms. The algorithms then create quantitative assessments and comparisons of city features using relevant time and space statistics. For instance, land cover statistics of a local government area may be compared with previous years, and these are meaningfully compared with those of other councils. This information combined with other spatial data, forms the basis of Urban Monitor™.

The results

Urban Monitor working with governments to develop and enhance the urban canopy

Urban Monitor™ has been applied to a variety of problems some of which include, urban greenspace and heat island assessment, direct and indirect ground water recharge estimation, and off-site monitoring of land cover and elevation change resulting from oil and gas operations. Baselines have been established for the greater metropolitan areas of Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

One of the key outcomes of Urban Monitor™ has been to support state and local government authorities to develop their urban forest strategies. This standardised and high-quality Urban Monitor™ resource has been used by numerous local government authorities to develop their urban forest strategies.

Local governments utilise the information to identify where they are losing trees, where they need to re-plant, and offers robust, evidence-based information, suburb by suburb. This enables local governments to tailor their policies and strategies to protect and enhance their individual urban canopy.

Urban Monitor™ has also been used in the planning, enhancement and support of tree canopy design objectives. The urban canopy data is now being considered to help define local areas of bushfire risk along with other criteria. It has also made significant contributions element to State Governments water-sensitive cities' programs and climate change policies.

Urban Monitor
Figure 1: Grassed areas are green; bushes and trees have hotter colours representing increasing height above ground. The elevation of built structures and impervious areas are shown in grey scale.

Urban Monitor™ is developing the capabililty for supporting online queries and scenario modelling. This will allow users to explore alternative planning choices, and to realise their impact on future cities.

Urban Monitor™ for Perth, Melbourne and Sydney have been integrated into and used by various agencies.

Further information on Urban Monitor™ in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney

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