A digital platform to allow more effective monitoring of landscape change through crowdsourcing has been launched by Hampshire County Council and its partners.
Landscape Watch Hampshire was developed in answer to a lack of Council resources to monitor change across the whole county and avoid missing vital information that could help to prevent major problems before they occur.
It works by allowing anyone to report changes to the environment by comparing aerial photos taken in 2005 and 2013.
Users simply compare the two images – which each covers four hectares of land – like a game of ‘spot the difference’, and report on changes like woodland encroachment, new ponds or greenfield development.
Participants can select from a range of ‘land use’ options including ‘trees’, ‘water’ and ‘paved’ then estimate the percentage of new use compared to old. They can also report on new or lost landscape features, such as hedges or solar farms, with simple ‘loss’ and ‘gain’ buttons.
“All government organisations are now under close financial scrutiny, and are having to look even harder at how they fulfil their social, statutory and regulatory functions”, said Tim Pearson, Senior Consultant at aerial image analysis company Remote Sensing Applications Consultants, which built the platform in collaboration with the University of Portsmouth and Hampshire County Council.
“Local authority functions related to environmental monitoring seem to be under particular financial pressure. By recording areas of detected change, ground survey teams and interventions can be targeted more efficiently”, he said.
The platform also offers a tool for use in schools to teach environmental stewardship and can also make it possible to meet requirements for actions such as habitat mapping and environmental protection more efficiently, according to Pearson.
All results will also be released as open data via the Hampshire Hub, a county-wide partnership that makes a wide range of open data easily available. “That way”, said Pearson, “the Council, its partners, contractors, local businesses, community groups and the public can all use the same data for whatever projects they like.
“The platform will fundamentally change the way in which citizens are able to play an active role in the management of their local environment. Engaging the public in matters concerning the environment in which they live is of key importance from both social and national perspectives”, said Pearson.
Landscape Watch Hampshire was funded by government’s InnovateUK’s ‘Data exploration: creating new insight and value’ competition, which sought projects that would create new insight and value from large datasets.