Development of EO Data Cubes for montoring land degradation processes in South Africa 

Global biodiversity and ecosystem services are under high pressure of human impact. Although avoiding, reducing and reversing the impacts of human activities on ecosystems should be an urgent priority, the loss of biodiversity continues. One of the main drivers of biodiversity loss is land use change and land degradation. In South Africa land degradation has a long history and is of great concern.

Within the SALDi (South African Land Degradation Monitor) project ready-to-use earth observation (EO) data cubes are developed for land degeneration monitoring. EO data cubes are both useful and effective tools to deliver decision-ready products for users. By accessing, storing and processing of EO products and their time-series in data cubes, the efficient monitoring of land degradation can therefore be enabled. The SALDi data cubes from optical and radar satellite data include all necessary pre-processing steps and are generated to monitor vegetation dynamics of five years for six focus areas.

Therefore, spatial high resolution earth observation data from 2016 to 2021 from Sentinel-1 (C-Band radar) and Sentinel-2 (multispectral) will be integrated in the SALDi data cube for six research areas of roughly 100 x 100 km. Additionally, a digital elevation model and a number of vegetation indices will be implemented to account for explicit land degradation and vegetation monitoring.

Facts and Figures

Covering six SALDi sites, this Data Cube is constructed with:

  • almost 7.000 Sentinel-1 SAR-imagery, covering the years 2015 – 2020
  • roughly 6.000 Sentinel-2 high-resolution images from 2016 – 2018
  • about 8 TerraBytes of Data is already ingested, 4 TB more is expected
  • along with additional products like the Copernicus Digital Surface Model

The SALDi Data Cube is piloted though custom Jupyter-Notebooks, making “Big Data” easy controllable.


Remote Sensing Department

at the University of Würzburg,
Institute of Geography and Geology

Oswald-Külpe-Weg 86
97074 Würzburg