Combating land degradation with Trends.Earth

The United Nations (UN) has projected the global population will reach 7.3 billion people by 2030 and surpass 9 billion by 2050 - with this comes a number of social and ecological risks. 

Research shows that continued population growth and high levels of resource consumption by developed economies can drive unsustainable levels of agricultural expansion, while urbanisation and the extraction of natural resources and minerals results in greater levels of land degradation.

The Trends.Earth tool, created by Conservation International and partners, has been used to support countries in achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN); with the platform monitoring land degradation to help decision-makers improve land health. 

In 2020, Trends.Earth was awarded grant funding and a support package through the GEO-GEE program run by Google, GEO and EO Data Science. The EO Data Science team is providing essential Google Earth Engine (GEE) training, support and billing capabilities to the Trends.Earth team to work towards LDN.

Developing a Cloud-based platform

This project aims to develop and implement a Cloud-based platform that is dedicated to mapping land degradation and potential land restoration opportunities.

The Trends.Earth team have collaborated with its project partners and the GEO LDN Initiative to co-design a platform that will:

1. Compute Sustainable Development Goal indicator 15.3.1; proportion of land that is degraded over total land area, and its sub-indicators:  
  • Trends in land cover
  • Trends in land productivity
  • Trends in carbon stocks above and below ground

2. Harness the vast potential of the Landsat and Sentinel satellite imagery harmonised collections that are being developed by NASA and ESA to monitor sub-indicators globally at fine spatial resolutions (10-30 metres).

3. Provide exportable results in the form of geospatial datasets and tabular summaries to facilitate the reporting process and policy responses.

Accessing Google Earth Engine datasets

The GEO-GEE funding will be key for developing a web-based version of Trends.Earth. Conservation International and its partners have the data and methodology developed to create the platform, but need support in the development of the web graphic interface with the functionalities to run on-the-fly analysis and export outputs.

The GEO-GEE Program is also helping Trends.Earth leverage Cloud computing powers and the vast Earth Observation (EO) datasets archive within GEE to improve the availability and resolution of data analytics around LDN. Although the desktop version of the Trends.Earth tool has been successful in reaching a large number of users, the team want to further maximise the availability of analytics through a more accessible Cloud-based platform. 

Restoring degraded lands

Trends.Earth offers data and tools to inform land management decisions. Restoring degraded lands can provide direct benefits to local communities in the form of improved food production and opportunities to increase income. 

On a global scale, the Trends.Earth project will provide indirect benefits by supporting land-use decisions aimed at sequestration of carbon, protection of biodiversity and regulation of the climate.

EO Data Science's role in the GEO-GEE program

EO Data Science partnered with Google Earth Engine and the Group on Earth Observations to launch the GEO-GEE Program in July 2020. Across 22 countries, 32 projects were selected for the program which offers $3 million USD towards product licenses and $1 million USD in technical support from EO Data Science to help operationalise their science as they strive to tackle the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges. So far EO Data Science has: 




Conducted 38 Google Earth Engine training courses attended by 680 program participants

Resolved 105 support tickets with a live support desk

Organised five virtual meetups for projects across the world to exchange knowledge and network with one another


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EO Data Science loves to look at the world from space to answer questions about our planet, but we can also help you get the information you need to transform your business or reach your organisational goals. Get in touch with us to collaborate on your next project!

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