Special Issue "Satellite and Aerial Remote Sensing of Hazards in Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites"

A special issue of Remote Sensing (ISSN 2072-4292). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Remote Sensing".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Francesca Cigna
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
National Research Council (CNR), Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC), Via del Fosso del Cavaliere 100, 00133 Rome, Italy
Interests: remote sensing; Earth observation; InSAR; landslides; land subsidence; ground instability; landscape evolution; geophysical hazards; archaeology; cultural heritage
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Deodato Tapete
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Italian Space Agency (ASI), Via del Politecnico snc, 00133 Rome, Italy
Interests: earth observation; radar and optical remote sensing; InSAR; time series analysis; Earth Sciences; environmental geology; natural hazards; urban environments; geoheritage; geoconservation; cultural heritage
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Natural and cultural heritage worldwide often faces geological and human-induced processes that can potentially threat its integrity, value and accessibility.

Such geohazards include, but are not limited to: flooding, mass movements, ground subsidence, soil erosion, desertification, earthquakes, climate change, sea level rise, and meteorological hazards, as well as human-related processes such as urban sprawl, tourism, mining, industrialisation, air pollution, and armed conflicts.

Identification, understanding and characterisation of these geohazards can be carried out by exploiting space and aerial remote sensing technologies, such as optical and radar satellite imaging, aerial photography, high resolution surveying with drones and UAVs, or 3D scanning with LiDAR.

This special issue of Remote Sensing aims to gather research articles, reviews, short communications and technical notes showcasing the use of aerial and satellite remote sensing technologies and their derived data to study geohazards in heritage sites and landscapes.

We welcome papers on the current scenarios of natural and human-induced threats to the conservation of heritage sites worldwide, focusing on:

  • target geographical domain: local, regional, country or global scales;
  • heritage category: UNESCO World Heritage (natural and cultural), Global Geoparks, and Biosphere Reserves; national parks, natural reserves, historic sites, listed buildings, or other world-, country- and regional-level heritage site designations.

You may choose our Joint Special Issue in GeoHazards.

Dr. Francesca Cigna
Dr. Deodato Tapete
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Remote Sensing is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2500 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • heritage conservation
  • condition assessment
  • geological hazards
  • ground instability
  • geophysical hazards
  • man-made hazards
  • human footprint
  • UNESCO World Heritage
  • Geoparks
  • Biosphere Reserves
  • archaeological heritage
  • heritage at risk

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Article
Detecting Change at Archaeological Sites in North Africa Using Open-Source Satellite Imagery
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(22), 3694; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/rs12223694 - 11 Nov 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2217
Abstract
Our paper presents a remote sensing workflow for identifying modern activities that threaten archaeological sites, developed as part of the work of the Endangered Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project. We use open-source Sentinel-2 satellite imagery and the free [...] Read more.
Our paper presents a remote sensing workflow for identifying modern activities that threaten archaeological sites, developed as part of the work of the Endangered Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project. We use open-source Sentinel-2 satellite imagery and the free tool Google Earth Engine to run a per-pixel change detection to make the methods and data as accessible as possible for heritage professionals. We apply this and perform validation at two case studies, the Aswan and Kom-Ombo area in Egypt, and the Jufra oases in Libya, with an overall accuracy of the results ranging from 85–91%. Human activities, such as construction, agriculture, rubbish dumping and natural processes were successfully detected at archaeological sites by the algorithm, allowing these sites to be prioritised for recording. A few instances of change too small to be detected by Sentinel-2 were missed, and false positives were caused by registration errors, shadow and movements of sand. This paper shows that the expansion of agricultural and urban areas particularly threatens the survival of archaeological sites, but our extensive online database of archaeological sites and programme of training courses places us in a unique position to make our methods widely available. Full article
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Article
Satellite Remote Sensing for the Analysis of the Micia and Germisara Archaeological Sites
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(12), 2003; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/rs12122003 - 22 Jun 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1242
Abstract
The capabilities of satellite remote sensing technologies and their derived data for the analysis of archaeological sites have been demonstrated in a large variety of studies over the last decades. Likewise, the Earth Observation (EO) data contribute to the disaster management process through [...] Read more.
The capabilities of satellite remote sensing technologies and their derived data for the analysis of archaeological sites have been demonstrated in a large variety of studies over the last decades. Likewise, the Earth Observation (EO) data contribute to the disaster management process through the provision of updated information for areas under investigation. In addition, long term studies may be performed for the in–depth analysis of the disaster–prone areas using archive satellite imagery and other cartographic materials. Hence, satellite remote sensing represents an essential tool for the study of hazards in cultural heritage sites and landscapes. Depending on the size of the archaeological sites and considering the fact that some parts of the site might be covered, the main concern regards the suitability of satellite data in terms of spatial and spectral resolution. Using a multi–temporal Sentinel–2 dataset between 2016 and 2019, the present study focuses on the hazard risk identification for the Micia and Germisara archaeological sites in Romania as they are endangered by industrialisation and major infrastructure works and soil erosion, respectively. Furthermore, the study includes a performance assessment of remote sensing vegetation indices for the detection of buried structures. The results clearly indicate that Sentinel–2 imagery proved to be fundamental in meeting the objectives of the study, particularly due to the extensive archaeological knowledge that was available for the cultural heritage sites. The main conclusion to be drawn is that satellite–derived products may be enhanced by integrating valuable archaeological context, especially when the resolution of satellite data is not ideally fitting the peculiarities (e.g., in terms of size, underground structures, type of coverage) of the investigated cultural heritage sites. Full article
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Article
Forgotten Nazi Forced Labour Camps: Arbeitslager Riese (Lower Silesia, SE Poland) and the Use of Archival Aerial Photography and Contemporary LiDAR and Ground Truth Data to Identify and Delineate Camp Areas
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(11), 1802; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/rs12111802 - 03 Jun 2020
Viewed by 2391
Abstract
The “Riese” project was a huge construction project initiated by German Nazi authorities, which was located in the northeast of the Sowie Mountains (Ger. Eulengebirge) in southwestern Poland. Construction of the “Riese” complex took place in 1943–1945 but was left unfinished. Due to [...] Read more.
The “Riese” project was a huge construction project initiated by German Nazi authorities, which was located in the northeast of the Sowie Mountains (Ger. Eulengebirge) in southwestern Poland. Construction of the “Riese” complex took place in 1943–1945 but was left unfinished. Due to the lack of reliable sources, the exact intended function of the Riese complex is still unknown. The construction was carried out by prisoners, mostly Jews, from the main nearby concentration camps, KL Gross-Rosen and KL Auschwitz-Birkenau. Thanks to the discovery in the National Archives (NARA, USA) of a valuable series of German aerial photographs taken in February 1945, insight into the location of labour camps was obtained. These photographs, combined with LiDAR data from the Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography (Warsaw, Poland), allowed for the effective identification and field inspection of the camps’ remains. The location and delimitation of the selected labour camps were confirmed by an analysis of the 1945 aerial photograph combined with LiDAR data. These results were supported by field inspection as well as archival testimonies of witnesses. The field inspection of the construction remains indicated intentionally faulty construction works, which deliberately reduced the durability of the buildings and made them easy to demolish. The authors believe that it is urgent to continue the research and share the results with both the scientific community and the local community. The authors also want to emphasize that this less-known aspect of Holocaust history is gradually disappearing in social and institutional memory and is losing to the commercial mythologization of the Riese object. Full article
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Article
Satellite Imagery-Based Damage Assessment on Nineveh and Nebi Yunus Archaeological Site in Iraq
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(10), 1672; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/rs12101672 - 23 May 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1619
Abstract
During the last decades, archaeological site looting throughout Iraq has increased significantly up to a point where some of the most famous and relevant ancient Mesopotamian cities are currently threatened in their integrity. Several important archaeological monuments and artifacts have been destroyed, due [...] Read more.
During the last decades, archaeological site looting throughout Iraq has increased significantly up to a point where some of the most famous and relevant ancient Mesopotamian cities are currently threatened in their integrity. Several important archaeological monuments and artifacts have been destroyed, due to ISIL attacks and associated looting. Since 2016, the policies of the European Union have been increasingly harsh to condemn these atrocious acts of destruction. In such a scenario, the European Union Satellite Centre can be an invaluable instrument for the identification and assessment of the damage in areas occupied by ISIL. A detailed view of the damage suffered by the Nineveh and Nebi Yunus ancient sites, in Iraq, was assessed via visual inspection. The analysis was conducted considering the main events that occurred in the city of Mosul, between November 2013 and March 2018. More than 25 satellite images, new acquisitions and archived, supported by collateral data, allowed the detection and classification of the damage occurred over time. A description of the methodology and the classification of category and type of damage is presented. The results of the analysis confirm the dramatic levels of destruction that these two ancient sites have been suffering since 2013. The analysis reported in this paper is part of a wider study that the SatCen conducted in cooperation with the EU Counter-Terrorism Office and PRISM Office. The whole activity aimed at confirming to EU institutions the massive looting and trafficking operated in the area. The results have been provided to archaeologists in the field as well in support of local authorities who are trying to evaluate the current situation in the area. Full article
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Communication
Earth Observation Contribution to Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management: Case Study of Eastern Mediterranean Open Air Archaeological Monuments and Sites
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(8), 1330; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/rs12081330 - 22 Apr 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2053
Abstract
Disaster risk management (DRM) for cultural heritage is a complex task that requires multidisciplinary cooperation. This short communication underlines the critical role of satellite remote sensing (also known as earth observation) in DRM in dealing with various hazards for cultural heritage sites and [...] Read more.
Disaster risk management (DRM) for cultural heritage is a complex task that requires multidisciplinary cooperation. This short communication underlines the critical role of satellite remote sensing (also known as earth observation) in DRM in dealing with various hazards for cultural heritage sites and monuments. Here, satellite observation potential is linked with the different methodological steps of the DRM cycle. This is achieved through a short presentation of recent paradigms retrieved from research studies and the Scopus scientific repository. The communication focuses on the Eastern Mediterranean region, an area with an indisputable wealth of archaeological sites. Regarding the cultural heritage type, this article considers relevant satellite observation studies implemented in open-air archaeological monuments and sites. The necessity of this communication article emerged while trying to bring together earth observation means, cultural heritage needs, and DRM procedures. Full article
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Article
Pars pro toto—Remote Sensing Data for the Reconstruction of a Rounded Chalcolithic Site from NE Romania: The Case of Ripiceni–Holm Settlement (Cucuteni Culture)
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(5), 887; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/rs12050887 - 10 Mar 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1765
Abstract
Prehistoric sites in NE Romania are facing major threats more than ever, both from natural and human-induced hazards. One of the main reasons are the climate change determined natural disasters, but human-induced activities should also not be neglected. The situation is critical for [...] Read more.
Prehistoric sites in NE Romania are facing major threats more than ever, both from natural and human-induced hazards. One of the main reasons are the climate change determined natural disasters, but human-induced activities should also not be neglected. The situation is critical for Chalcolithic sites, with a very high density in the region and minimal traces at the surface, that are greatly affected by one or more natural hazards and/or anthropic interventions. The case study, Ripiceni–Holm, belonging to Cucuteni culture, is one of the most important Chalcolithic discoveries in the region. It is also the first evidence from Romania of a concentric arrangement of buildings in the proto-urban mega-sites tradition in Cucuteni-Trypillia cultural complex, and a solid piece of evidence in terms of irreversible natural and anthropic destruction. Using archival cartographic material, alongside non-destructive and high-resolution airborne sensing and ground-based geophysical techniques (LiDAR, total field and vertical gradient magnetometry), we managed to detect diachronic erosion processes for 31 years, to identify a complex internal spatial organization of the actual site and to outline a possible layout of the initial extent of the settlement. The erosion was determined with the help of the DSAS tool and highlighted an average erosion rate of 0.96 m/year. The main results argue a high percent of site destruction (approximately 45%) and the presence of an active shoreline affecting the integrity of the cultural layer. Full article
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Article
COSMO-SkyMed SAR for Detection and Monitoring of Archaeological and Cultural Heritage Sites
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(11), 1326; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/rs11111326 - 02 Jun 2019
Cited by 29 | Viewed by 3678
Abstract
Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery has long been used in archaeology since the earliest space radar missions in the 1980s. In the current scenario of SAR missions, the Italian Space Agency (ASI)’s COnstellation of small Satellites for Mediterranean basin Observation (COSMO-SkyMed) has peculiar [...] Read more.
Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery has long been used in archaeology since the earliest space radar missions in the 1980s. In the current scenario of SAR missions, the Italian Space Agency (ASI)’s COnstellation of small Satellites for Mediterranean basin Observation (COSMO-SkyMed) has peculiar properties that make this mission of potential use by archaeologists and heritage practitioners: high to very high spatial resolution, site revisit of up to one day, and conspicuous image archives over cultural heritage sites across the globe. While recent literature and the number of research projects using COSMO-SkyMed data for science and applied research suggest a growing interest in these data, it is felt that COSMO-SkyMed still needs to be further disseminated across the archaeological remote sensing community. This paper therefore offers a portfolio of use-cases that were developed in the last two years in the Scientific Research Unit of ASI, where COSMO-SkyMed data were analysed to study and monitor cultural landscapes and heritage sites. SAR-based applications in archaeological and cultural heritage sites in Peru, Syria, Italy, and Iraq, provide evidence on how subsurface and buried features can be detected by interpreting SAR backscatter, its spatial and temporal changes, and interferometric coherence, and how SAR-derived digital elevation models (DEM) can be used to survey surface archaeological features. The use-cases also showcase how high temporal revisit SAR time series can support environmental monitoring of land surface processes, and condition assessment of archaeological heritage and landscape disturbance due to anthropogenic impact (e.g., agriculture, mining, looting). For the first time, this paper provides an overview of the capabilities of COSMO-SkyMed imagery in StripMap Himage and Spotlight-2 mode to support archaeological studies, with the aim to encourage remote sensing scientists and archaeologists to search for and exploit these data for their investigations and research activities. Furthermore, some considerations are made with regard to the perspectives opened by the upcoming launch of ASI’s COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation constellation. Full article
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