MULTIPLY launched!

From the press release as published on the Website of Leiden University.

Leiden University launches Earth Observation platform

A new online platform makes it possible to estimate the state of agricultural crops and nature area’s around the world. This enables scientists and other users to consistently combine observations of different satellites for the first time.

The platform is called MULTIPLY and was launched in November by the Institute for Environmental Sciences (CML) of Leiden University. For 8 years, researchers from CML worked together with European partners to develop the platform.

Information of multiple satellites

The platform is unique because it combines the information of multiple satellites with varying resolutions and information, instead of using only one individual satellite. This enables MULTIPLY to generate breakthrough information on vegetation and soil moisture.

This data is crucial for different applications such as mapping evapotranspiration during droughts, monitoring declining trends of biodiversity, and quantifying ecosystem services.

Oil-palm plantations

Researchers of the CML have used the platform to quantify the impact of oil-palm plantations in Northern Borneo on biodiversity for the first time using earth observation data. The high resolution of the platform data enabled them to distinguish between the different land uses. The study confirmed a significantly lower biodiversity for the Northern Borneo oil palm plantations, indicating higher risks to ecosystem services.

Currently, the MULTIPLY platform has only been made available to scientists for the purpose of testing it on their own research. During this trial-period, these scientists can explore the benefits of the novel approach, but also provide feedback on how well the earth observation information matches ground measurements. Next to these studies, MULTIPLY will further expanded to even more satellites. Afterwards, the platform will be delivered to the European committee which will allow this service to be available to the general public.

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City of Toulouse in Southern France with surrounding agricultural fields. Captured on 10 July 2017 by Sentinel-2 and processed by ESA.

Review Meeting at Tartu Observatory

At certain points during a Horizon 2020 Research & Innovation Action, the project consortium meets for a review meeting. Together with the project officer of the European Commission and with an external reviewer they review the progress of the project. For the MULTIPLY project, on the 28th and 29th of Augustus, one of these review meetings took place at the Tartu Observatory in Estonia.

“It was a really nice and constructive meeting where we could present the current state of the project to the reviewers,” says Dr. Lea Hallik, team member of MULTIPLY and researcher at the University of Tartu. “As we are now finalizing the tests of the beta version of the platform, they were happy with our progress.”

Different types of users
“An interesting discussion was about how the platform should be accessible for two types of users. On the one hand, the more technical programmer that wants to create and improve products using satellite data. On the other hand, the earth observations consultants who are less technical and want to access only the end products. This is challenging and something we will have to work on during the next months.”

There was also time for some social activities like a nice tour along the visitor center and the space technology laboratory. “The location was great. It is in a beautiful green setting, 20 kilometers away from the city Tartu and its light pollution.”

MULTIPLY consortium members at the Tartu Observatory

MULTIPLY consortium members at the Tartu Observatory

From local to global
Hallik and her colleagues from Tartu University, study what kind of plant traits can be measured with satellites. Therefore, she collected data in the field on traits of both evergreen and deciduous trees during the past two summers. With this knowledge, she can validate the measurements from satellites. “I like that we, as a small research group, can contribute with local field measurements to such a big project.”

“In Estonia, we have six towers where you can reach the highest leaves of the trees. There we sample and measure leaf traits like reflectance, transmittance, pigment content, dry mass area, and water content. Because natural vegetation is very complex, especially in a forest, with multiple species and different vegetational layers, satellite data can also be challenging,” Hallik explains. “It is important to understand these time series of forest leaves because an important aim of MULTIPLY is to create time series and make seasonal changes visible.”

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Samling at Järvselja forest, Estonia

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Observation tower at Järvselja forest, Estonia

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Fieldwork at Järvselja forest, Estonia