Section 1.4: Remote Sensing

The collaborative project aims at the utilization of global satellite and model data for regional water resources management and seasonal forecasts. Main target areas are dryland regions in Brazil, Iran and Sudan. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the frame of the research initiative Global Resource Water (GROW).

We provide game-changing, remote exploration which allows you to determine the resource potential in a focussed, precise and timely manner. By using available data from satellite systems utilizing automated patent registered processing routines, we provide high-performance, large spatial surface analysis for risk-reduced remote prospection.

The HGF Alliance “Remote Sensing and Earth System Dynamics” aims at the development and evaluation of novel bio/geo-physical information products derived from data acquired by a new generation of remote sensing satellites; and their integration in Earth system models for improving understanding and modelling ability of global environmental processes and ecosystem change. The Earth system comprises a multitude of processes that are intimately meshed through complex interactions. In work package (WP) H7:”the use of hyperspectral optical and L-band radar data for retrieving surface soil moisture at the field scale” is investigated.

The project EORAP (Earth Observation for the retrieval of agronomical parameters) focusses since 2014 on the analysis of plant pattern / heterogeneities in agricultural crops. This can be based on temporary ( nutrients , disease , bad weather , among others ) and permanent ( soil type , relief , failure management ) causes and effects directly the local yield potential. The recognition and classification of plants occurring patterns can help to optimize fertilizers and farm management strategies of each crop adapted to the structures and thus contribute to sustainable and resource efficient management.

By multi-temporal analysis of multispectral RapidEye data sets visible spectrally defined spatial units are distinguished within an agricultural field in stable soil pattern (due to differences in soil properties influenced) and temporary pattern (created by management, vegetation and weather). Identified patterns are analyzed with respect to their soil characteristics and assessed their spatial and temporal stability. The aim is to develop functional maps based on spatially and temporally stable soil patterns for a more economical and more sustainable land management.

In order to cover the entire geomorphological, pedological and topographical range of the project area, on several reference areas in total 731 in-situ surface soil samples are taken and were analyzed in the laboratory with regard to their physiochemical soil properties.


PROBRAL is a German-Brazilian programme for bilateral scientific cooperation funded by DAAD and CAPES. The project deals with the use of remote sensing technologies for monitoring and management of water resources in semi-arid NE Brazil.

In the frame of the REEMAP project a modular multi-sensor processing chain for modern imaging spectrometers shall be created that enables direct (using absorption features) or indirect (using mineral assemblages) spatially extensive, rapid and robust detection and semiquantification of Rare Earth Elements also by technical staff in order to fulfill the actual demand for cost-efficient, fast and reliable exploration and ressource potential assessment.

GeoMultiSens exploits current scientific and technological advances in Big Data infrastructures, parallel computing environments, Visual Analytics and links them with the potential of satellite remote sensing data to address global challenges such as deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and mega cities.

A national network of German companies and research institutes which aim to develop strategies and methods to monitor the contamination of surface waters with plastic debris.

The Research Training Group „NatRiskChange“ funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) started in 2015. It aims at developing quantitative methods for an improved hazard and risk analysis. The Remote Sensing section at GFZ is involved in two out of 12 PhD projects.

With a combination of field, laboratory and remote sensing methods the following aspects will be examined: 1) input and transport of plastic debris by selected rivers, 2) distribution patterns in estuaries and adjacent coasts, 3) as well as distribution within the ocean gyres.

In the GTS² project, Sentinel-2 surface reflectance data is processed and provided to users via a simple to use web application programming interface (API). The GTS² project is developed in collaboration with AgriCircle, an agriculture start-up based in Switzerland.

Our aim is to serve a variety of users and applications such as agricultural monitoring services or surveillance of hazards such as floods or landslides.


The GlobFluo project (Global assessment of vegetation photosynthesis through the monitoring of chlorophyll fluorescence from space, GU 1276/1-1) is funded by the Emmy Noether programme of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. The objective of the project is to implement a so-called junior research group focused on the space-based monitoring of the sun-induced fluorescence signal emitted by vegetation.

The Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program (EnMAP) is a German hyperspectral mission, scheduled for launch in 2017. The primary goal of EnMAP is to offer accurate, diagnostic information on the state and evolution of terrestrial ecosystems on a timely and frequent basis, and to allow for a detailed analysis of surface parameters with regard to the characterization of vegetation canopies, rock/soil targets and coastal waters on a global scale. EnMAP is designed to record bio-physical, bio-chemical and geo-chemical variables to increase our understanding of biospheric /geospheric processes and to ensure the sustainability of our resources.

EUFAR works to coordinate the operation of instrumented aircraft and hyperspectral imaging sensors, exploiting the skills of experts in airborne measurements in the fields of environmental and geo-sciences, in order to provide researchers with the infrastructure best suited to their needs. EUFAR in FP7 joined with the HYRESSA (EU-FP6) hyperspectral community.

The BMBF funded "Potsdam Research Cluster for Georisk Analysis, Environmental Change and Sustainability" (PROGRESS) comprises the whole chain of natural hazard and geo-risk research spanning form process analysis to decision making.

SEDMEDHY (link-to- focuses on detecting soil erosion processes applying airborne and LIDAR remote sensing data within Mediterranean agricultural areas.

The BMBF co-operative project GeoArchives is part of the FONA - "Forschung für Nachhaltige Entwicklung" program and within the international research program SPACES - "Science Partnerships for the Assessment of Complex Earth System Processes". In this study we intend to examine the connections between earth-surface processes on slopes such as sheet wash, colluvial sediment transport, and eolian movements and their links to the fluvial system via three major geomorphic forms as terrestrial geoarchives: slopes, fans, and terraces.

The following projects are closed.

Desertification surveillance is required for making one-off and periodic assessments of desertification status, for forecasting possible trajectories (early warning), and for evaluating the performance of management programmes. However, assessment procedures have so far been largely empirical and focused on the symptoms of desertification (land degradation) rather than on the underlying human-environment interactions and processes.

Continued growth of the world’s population, the resulting intensified exploitation of our planet and its resources, and the increasing susceptibility of society to natural disasters all call for sustained and internationally agreed activity to preserve our living environment. Earth is a dynamic planet subject to constant change caused by a variety of endogenous and exogenous forces and processes and characterized by interactions and exchanges among the geosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. In order to comprehend this space in which we live, we have to consider Earth as a system and analyze its functioning globally as well as regionally. It is also necessary to evaluate the effects of human activity and interference with the natural equilibria and processes of this highly complex system.