Application of SWOS tools for wetlands monitoring using satellite data in the Maghreb and West Africa

Tour du Valat, EMWIS and Wetland International jointly organised a 3-day training session in Rabat, Morocco, from 22 to 24 May 2017. The purpose was to train French-speaking users coming mainly from Maghreb and West African countries on how to use earth observation data for wetland and water monitoring, based on the products developed by a Satellite-based Wetland Observation Service (SWOS) project. Fourteen users from five countries (Algeria, Mali, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia) took part in the workshop. They were representing the General Directorates for Forests from Algeria and Tunisia, the Tunisian NGO for nature conservation ATPNE-Korba (Association Tunisienne pour la Protection de la Nature et de l’Environnement de Korba), the river basin organisations of Oued Sebou (Morocco) and Algerois (Algeria), Wetlands International regional offices from Mali and Senegal, the Scientific Association for Water Information System (SAWIS), the Regional Africa Center on Space Science and Tchnologies (CRASTE-LF), and the Senegal River Basin Organisation (OMVS).


                         Overview of the SWOS project. Photo: © H. Abid


Based on the overview of the SWOS project, the services (including the new geo-portal) and products (maps and indicators) provided during the first session, trainees defined their own service cases responding to local, national or supra-national needs.

Satellite data acquisition was introduced, but to save time, Sentinel-2 and Landsat-8 images were already prepared and provided to all users for testing the SWOS approaches and products on pre-selected areas within some test sites related to their service cases: the Sebou river basin (Morocco), the Sebaou river basin (Algeria), the Medjerda transboundary river basin (Algeria/Tunisia), the Senegal river basin and the Inner Niger Delta (Mali).

The current version of the SWOS mapping software (the GEOclassifier) was used. Participants were able to apply what they had learnt and to produce their first Land Use Land Cover and Surface Water Dynamics maps, using some of the SWOS nomenclature systems (e.g., CLC/Ramsar) and satellite data related to their sites.


     SWOS tools for wetlands monitoring using satellite data. Photo: © H. Abid


During the discussion, valuable inputs where collected from users on the SWOS service geo-portal (e.g., providing links to download hubs for the different EO data identified for each site; the provision of web services for remote integration into other portals or desktop applications, etc.) soon to be publically released as well as many suggestions for the improvement of the GEOclassifier SW (e.g., the possibility of using of vector files, the calculation of the classification confusion matrix for error assessment or the possibility to analyse DEM data using the GEOclassifier). Additionally, participants showed great interest in the SWOS approach being used for the modeling and delineation of potential wetland areas (based on combining spectral, topographic and climatic indices), especially to help them in the development of wetland inventories at river basin or national scales.


               Participants in the SWOS training, Rabat. Photo: © H. Abid


Finally, potential collaboration with local users to gather field data for map validation was also discussed with a strong willingness of some users to be involved in this process to increase the quality and reliability of final results. Such involvement will be formalised when the SWOS validation guidelines will have been finalised.

As a follow-up to the training, EMWIS, Tour du Valat and Wetlands International will regularly exchange information with the users to support the production and validation of valuable maps and indicators as well as preparing related application case studies. Trainees were encouraged to register for the SWOS newsletter to be kept informed about any news related to SWOS activities and services, such as the web geo-portal, GEOclassifier, capacity building opportunities, mapping products, etc.


             Participants in the SWOS training, Rabat. Photo: © H. Abid


More information

SWOS project website



Guelmami Anis

Project Manager, Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory, Tour du Valat