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Remote Sensing of Geopolitics

A special issue of Remote Sensing (ISSN 2072-4292).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2021) | Viewed by 21951

Special Issue Editors

Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
Interests: urban remote sensing; nightlight remote sensing; remote sensing image analysis; GIS; spatial analysis
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
State Key Laboratory of Information Engineering in Surveying, Mapping and Remote Sensing, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430079, China
Interests: night-time lights; conflict research; LUCC; Landsat; social media
College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 101 SW 26th St, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
Interests: remote sensing; conflict; land cover/land use change; political ecology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Remote sensing allows us to monitor land use and land cover changes (LULCC) globally, as a function of both natural and human factors. Whereas much of the focus of remote sensing studies has been on uncovering the effects of climatic variability on LULCC, it is often the case that abrupt gradient and boundaries in LULCC can be observed from space, between countries and states. With this Special Issue, it is our aim to explore how geopolitics shape LULCC as observed from space. We invite researchers to submit papers examining the impacts of geopolitical differences between countries or states, or the impact of geopolitical events between or within countries on LULCC. Submitted papers can be global, regional or local in their scope and may use either passive (e.g., for observing trends in vegetation or in night-time brightness) or active sensors. We also welcome authors to contribute papers on the geopolitics behind remote sensing research, concerning the impacts of the privatization and commercialization of space on the research agenda and research possibilities of remote sensing, and concerning the development of sensors and the availability of free satellite imagery affects governments, non-state actors, and local communities during conflicts.

While all papers concerning remote sensing, Earth observation, and geopolitics are welcomed, we are particularly interested in the following topics:

  • Assessing the impacts of conflicts on LULCC using time series of satellite images;
  • Assessing the intensity of conflicts combining the use of remote sensing and social sensing (big data and social media);
  • Examining how the availability of satellite imagery, transformed by Google Earth, Google Earth Engine, Planet Labs, and the free archives of Landsat and Sentinel, have modified the ways conflicts are handled, also through crowdsourcing and volunteered geographic information (VGI).

Prof. Noam Levin
Assoc. Prof. Xi Li
Assist. Prof. Jamon Van Den Hoek
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 submissions that pass pre-check are 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 2700 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

  • geopolitics
  • conflict research
  • LULCC
  • time series
  • space privatization
  • crowdsourcing
  • VGI

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

27 pages, 9722 KiB  
Article
Integrating Pixels, People, and Political Economy to Understand the Role of Armed Conflict and Geopolitics in Driving Deforestation: The Case of Myanmar
Remote Sens. 2021, 13(22), 4589; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13224589 - 15 Nov 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3160
Abstract
Armed conflict and geopolitics are a driving force of Land Use and Land Cover Change (LULCC), but with considerable variation in deforestation trends between broader and finer scales of analysis. Remotely-sensed annual deforestation rates from 1989 to 2018 are presented at the national [...] Read more.
Armed conflict and geopolitics are a driving force of Land Use and Land Cover Change (LULCC), but with considerable variation in deforestation trends between broader and finer scales of analysis. Remotely-sensed annual deforestation rates from 1989 to 2018 are presented at the national and (sub-) regional scales for Kachin State in the north of Myanmar and in Kayin State and Tanintharyi Region in the southeast. We pair our multiscaled remote sensing analysis with our multisited political ecology approach where we conducted field-based interviews in study sites between 2018 and 2020. Our integrated analysis identified three common periods of deforestation spikes at the national and state/region level, but with some notable disparities between regions as well as across and within townships and village tracts. We found the rate and geography of deforestation were most influenced by the territorial jurisdictions of armed authorities, national political economic reforms and timber regulations, and proximity to national borders and their respective geopolitical relations. The absence or presence of ceasefires in the north and southeast did not solely explain deforestation patterns. Rather than consider ceasefire or war as a singular explanatory variable effecting forest cover change, we demonstrate the need to analyze armed conflict as a dynamic multisited and diffuse phenomenon, which is simultaneously integrated into broader political economy and geopolitical forces. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Geopolitics)
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19 pages, 3361 KiB  
Article
On the Geopolitics of Fire, Conflict and Land in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Remote Sens. 2021, 13(8), 1575; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13081575 - 19 Apr 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 6255
Abstract
There is limited understanding of the geopolitics of fire, conflict, and land, for example, how conflict and fire are related and how conflict impacts the biophysical environment. Since 2014, the natural environment in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has been negatively affected by [...] Read more.
There is limited understanding of the geopolitics of fire, conflict, and land, for example, how conflict and fire are related and how conflict impacts the biophysical environment. Since 2014, the natural environment in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has been negatively affected by recurrent conflict that coincided with a sharp increase in the number of reported fires. Against this background, this study explores the spatiotemporal aspects of conflict, fire, and land use and land cover in this region. We combine several satellite-derived products, including land use and land cover, active fire, and precipitation. We apply a partial correlation analysis to understand the relationship between fire, conflict, climate, and land use and land cover. Conflict events and fires have increased since 2014 and have followed a similar temporal pattern, and we show that certain conflicts were particular to certain land use and land cover contexts. For example, the conflict involving the Islamic State was concentrated in southern areas with bare soil/sparse vegetation, and the conflict involving Turkey largely took place in northern mountainous areas characterized by natural vegetation and rugged topography. This dichotomy indicates divergent effects of conflict on the land system. A surprising finding was that fire hotspots had a low positive correlation with the amplitude of distance to conflict while accounting for other variables such as land cover and climate. The high statistical significance of this relationship indicates nonlinearity and implies that a larger range of distances to conflict creates more space for the fires to spread in the surrounding landscape. At the same time, fire hotspots had a weaker but negative correlation to distance from conflict events, which is somewhat expected as areas farther away from conflict locations have lower exposure risk to fires. We discuss the implications of these findings within the geopolitical context of the region and acknowledge the limitations of the study. We conclude with a summary of the main findings and recommendations for future research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Geopolitics)
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26 pages, 6572 KiB  
Article
Uneven Frontiers: Exposing the Geopolitics of Myanmar’s Borderlands with Critical Remote Sensing
Remote Sens. 2021, 13(6), 1158; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13061158 - 18 Mar 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 4489
Abstract
A critical remote sensing approach illuminates the geopolitics of development within Myanmar and across its ethnic minority borderlands. By integrating nighttime light (NTL) data from 1992–2020, long-term ethnographic fieldwork, and a review of scholarly and gray literature, we analyzed how Myanmar’s economic geography [...] Read more.
A critical remote sensing approach illuminates the geopolitics of development within Myanmar and across its ethnic minority borderlands. By integrating nighttime light (NTL) data from 1992–2020, long-term ethnographic fieldwork, and a review of scholarly and gray literature, we analyzed how Myanmar’s economic geography defies official policy, attesting to persistent inequality and the complex relationships between state-sponsored and militia-led violence, resource extraction, and trade. While analysis of DMSP-OLS data (1992–2013) and VIIRS data (2013–2020) reveals that Myanmar brightened overall, especially since the 2010s in line with its now-halting liberalization, growth in lights was unequally distributed. Although ethnic minority states brightened more rapidly than urbanized ethnic majority lowland regions, in 2020, the latter still emitted 5.6-fold more radiance per km2. Moreover, between 2013 and 2020, Myanmar’s borderlands were on average just 13% as bright as those of its five neighboring countries. Hot spot analysis of radiance within a 50 km-wide area spanning both sides of the border confirmed that most significant clusters of light lay outside Myanmar. Among the few hot spots on Myanmar’s side, many were associated with official border crossings such as Muse, the formal hub for trade with China, and Tachileik and Myawaddy next to Thailand. Yet some of the most significant increases in illumination between 2013 and 2020 occurred in areas controlled by the Wa United State Party and its army, which are pursuing infrastructure development and mining along the Chinese border from Panghsang to the illicit trade hub of Mongla. Substantial brightening related to the “world’s largest refugee camp” was also detected in Bangladesh, where displaced Rohingya Muslims fled after Myanmar’s military launched a violent crackdown. However, no radiance nor change in radiance were discernible in areas within Myanmar where ethnic cleansing operations occurred, pointing to the limitations of NTL. The diverse drivers and implications of changes in light observed from space emphasize the need for political and economically situated remote sensing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Geopolitics)
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19 pages, 8954 KiB  
Article
Monitoring River Basin Development and Variation in Water Resources in Transboundary Imjin River in North and South Korea Using Remote Sensing
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(1), 195; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12010195 - 05 Jan 2020
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 5483
Abstract
This paper presents methods of monitoring river basin development and water variability for the transboundary river in North and South Korea. River basin development, such as dams and water infrastructure in transboundary rivers, can be a potential factor of tensions between upstream and [...] Read more.
This paper presents methods of monitoring river basin development and water variability for the transboundary river in North and South Korea. River basin development, such as dams and water infrastructure in transboundary rivers, can be a potential factor of tensions between upstream and downstream countries since dams constructed upstream can adversely affect downstream riparians. However, because most of the information related to North Korea has been limited to the public, the information about dams constructed and their locations were inaccurate in many previous studies. In addition, water resources in transboundary rivers can be exploited as a political tool. Specifically, due to the unexpected water release from the Hwanggang Dam, upstream of the transboundary Imjin River in North and South Korea, six South Koreans died on 6 September 2009. The Imjin River can be used as a political tool by North Korea, and seven events were reported as water conflicts in the Imjin River from 2001 to 2016. In this paper, firstly, we have updated the information about the dams constructed over the Imjin River in North Korea using multi-temporal images with a high spatial resolution (15–30 cm) obtained from Google Earth. Secondly, we analyzed inter- and intra-water variability over the Hwanggang Reservoir using open-source images obtained from the Global Surface Water Explorer. We found a considerable change in water surface variability before and after 2008, which might result from the construction of the Hwanggang Dam. Thirdly, in order to further investigate intra-annual water variability, we present a method monitoring water storage changes of the Hwanggang Reservoir using the area-elevation curve (AEC), which was derived from multi-sensor Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images (Sentinel-1A and -1B) and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) Digital Elevation Model (DEM). Since many previous studies for estimating water storage change have depended on satellite altimetry dataset and optical images for deriving AEC, the method adopted in this study is the only application for such inaccessible areas since no altimetry ground track exists for the Hwanggang Reservoir and because clouds can block the study area for wet seasons. Moreover, this study has newly proven that unexpected water release can occur in dry seasons because the water storage in the Hwanggang Reservoir can be high enough to conduct a release that can be used as a geopolitical tool. Using our method, potential risks can be mitigated, not in response to a water release, but based on pre-event water storage changes in the Hwanggang Reservoir. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Geopolitics)
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