Natural Resources

Image: Kambalda West (Australia), DESIS / ISS RGB (639 nm, 550 nm, 470 nm)
Source: DLR/Teledyne Brown

Management of natural resources comprises the exploration, monitoring, and sustainable utilization of natural assets that can be used for economic production or consumption. Especially abiotic resources including minerals, soils, and fossil fuels are essential for an industrialized society. Minerals can be indicators of deposits containing economically valuable minerals, such as gold, silver and copper, to name just a few. In this context, the detection and assessment of rare earth element deposits are of greatest interest for both political relations and the global economy. The condition of soils combined with the emerging field of precision farming is receiving increased attention in society. Supported by imaging spectroscopy, soil conditions can be assessed before, during, and after the growing season. In this way, farmers can better evaluate critical needs such as irrigation, nutrient supply, and cultivation in order to gain increased agricultural yields. Finally, petroleum, or crude oil, has been the primary energy source that contributed significantly to technological and industrial advance. Imaging spectroscopy can be used to detect oil discharges on the Earth surface, which is of environmental concern and economic interest.

The extraction of natural resources is frequently associated with environmental degradation due to the dispersion of potentially toxic substances. For example, numerous abandoned mines (e.g. open pit coal, copper and gold mines) have left an environmental legacy of acidic drainage and toxic metals in downstream watersheds, with adverse effects to human and ecosystem health. Further, in recent years there has been a growing demand for environmental monitoring associated with the advance of petroleum exploration in deep offshore waters and oil sand extraction in pristine ecosystems. Imaging spectroscopy can effectively identify contamination and determine its sources and downstream impacts on the water cycle and on vegetation health. In this context imaging spectroscopy represents a comprehensive monitoring tool to assess mining-related environmental impact and to monitor the progress of ecosystem restoration.

Due to societies' demands on abiotic natural resources extraction and the often associated environmental degradation processes, the scientific tasks related to natural resource management are twofold:

Abiotic natural resources extraction Environmental degradation processes
Develop algorithms and expert systems for mineralogical mapping with emphasis on alteration zones, index minerals of metamorphic zonations and detection of rare earth minerals; Develop geospatial tools and integration techniques for sustainable mine site management
Develop new algorithms and models for non-linear, weighted unmixing and mineral quantification approaches Detect, quantify, and model the short- and long-term environmental changes caused by mining activities
Investigate the effects of mineral-induced stress on the spectral signature of dense vegetation canopies to establish a link between vegetation stress and specific minerals Develop algorithms to automatically detect mine waste areas;
Quantitatively estimate the influence of external (weathering crusts, lithobionts) and internal (organic matter, opaque accessory minerals) parameters on the spectral signature ofrocks and on the soil creation of pedo-transfer functions; Monitor feedback mechanisms of mining activities to surrounding agricultural potential, hydrological status and human settlements
Retrieve soil properties, such as organic matter and iron content, particle size distribution, clay mineralogy, water content, soil contamination, cation exchange capacity, and calcium carbonate content to analyse the status and changes of soils Combine remote sensing based results about the status and health of natural resources with socio-economic relevance and challenges
Develop methods to optimize oil extraction in order to improve ecosystem stability Assess and quantify the success of remediation strategies
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