Feedback from a young conservationist on monitoring wetland surface

Majda Boudjelal is a student in her final year of the Masters Program in Sea and Coastal Management at the University of Montpellier. Currently, she is working on mapping water surface dynamics using remote sensing methods of Mediterranean coastal watersheds. The outputs of this work will contribute to updating the current geo-database of the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory (MWO).

Majda Boudjelal

Majda Boudjelal. Photo credit: A. Guelmami

logotexte-MWOThe MWO was established in 2008 at the request of the Mediterranean Wetlands Committee (MedWet/Com) as a multi-partner project coordinated by Tour du Valat (TdV), the Research Institute for the Conservation of Mediterranean Wetlands, based in Arles, France. The main objective of the MWO is to act as a wetland management tool to support effective wetland management in MedWet countries. The MWO works on several levels, from regional to national and local, in the entire Mediterranean Basin.

More info about the MWO here.

Majda Boudjelal’s project has two components: a) to map water cycle regimes (WCR) for Mediterranean coastal watersheds from Portugal to France for the time period 2013-2014, using 4 different images in order to cover all seasons; and b) to contribute to the development of a method to assess the flood regulation service provided by ecosystems (mainly wetland ecosystems). Both tasks are done using Earth Observation data.

habitats_lez basin

Evolution of the habitats for Lez basin from 1986/1987 to 2013/2014. (M.Boudjelal, 2016)


Indeed, the project’s main objective is to develop a spatial indicator in order to quantify the service provided by ecosystems in terms of flood control and to monitor its trends over time.

This study highlights the important role played by some natural habitats, in particular natural wetlands, in protecting human populations from flood hazards. Indeed, the computation of the developed indicator for the selected pilot site (the Lez river basin) showed that these ecosystems have the highest flood regulation scores among all others. In addition to that, this innovative approach, based on the management of remote sensing and geo-referenced data and combining biodiversity factors (habitats) and physical factors (topography and hydrology), has the advantage of being transferable and can be easily implemented in other watersheds under a different biogeographic context, as the conceptual framework for the computation of the indicator is based on the use of free and globally available data.


Map of flood regulation capacity derived from Landsat 8 images (Lez river basin, France) (M. Boudjelal, 2016)

All these data produced by Majda can be used by the MWO and its partners for different purposes: the WCR maps could be used for the development of a pan-Mediterranean database on wetland extents (in support of wetland inventory initiatives), and the Ecosystem Service indicator on flood protection could help scientists and decision-makers achieve better management of the landscape.

Majda explains that she has always wanted to learn how wetlands can provide these ecosystem services, as well as more about their dynamics. For her, it is surprising how a small piece of land can protect and assure human needs. She also thinks that it would be a great idea to publish the information so that a wider public can understand why these ecosystems are so important to society.

Following the IUCN and MedWet campaign #NatureForAll and #WetlandsForAll, the young researcher affirms that a wetland is for her a hidden treasure.



Anis Guelmami, Project manager (Mapping, remote sensing)

Majda Boudjelal