Remote sensing for Oil Spills:  Linking Community Monitoring and Satellite Image Processing in the Ecuadorian Amazon 

Carlos F. Mena, Carolina Sampedro, Patricia Martínez V., Angelica Encarnación, Diocles Zambrano

This chapter explores a case study on how community monitoring systems and remote sensing can be linked to maximize opportunities.  Specifically, this study tries to find new ways to find the extent of oil liabilities and to explore the real magnitude of oil impacts in the landscape in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon.  The chapter reports preliminary findings on the work of local monitoring that feeds into direct and indirect methodos of remote sensing detection of oil impacts.  Main remote sensing methods used were Fractional Coverage, NDVI, Constrained Energy Minimization and Linear Spectral Unmixing.

Keywords: Ecuadorian Amazon, oil, community monitoring

2016_Mena_Sampedro_Martinez_Paltan_Remote Sensing of Oil Spills Linking Community Monitoring and Satellite Image Processing in the Ecuadorian Amazon

 Modeling road building, deforestation and carbon emissions due deforestation in the Ecuadorian Amazon: the potential impact of oil frontier growth

Carlos F. Mena, Patricia Martínez, Francisco Lasso, Carolina Sampedro

In the Ecuadorian Amazon roads play the major role in transforming land cover. Since the beginning of the oil development in this region, oil exploration and road building have been linked. The objectives of this paper are twofold: First, to present a scenario of future deforestation as result of expanding the oil frontier in the Ecuadorian Amazon until the year 2030. Second, to produce an analysis of possible carbon emission scenarios as results of the deforestation produced. This paper tries to shed light into how the development of new oil concessions impact land associated environmental services. The paper uses spatial explicit simulations, that are based on parameters built using past land transitions from areas that experimented oil development, and that explain possible outcomes in the year 2030 using current and predicted road network. Simulations indicate that under current transition probabilities and a conservative scenario road construction, more than 2 million hectares will be affected, which is 35% of the area covered by concessions, which would release 51 to 148 MT of carbon to the atmosphere. This paper illustrates the strong links between road building and deforestation, where even small amount of road construction can have large effects on land cover.

Keywords: Ecuador, Amazon, extractivism, deforestation, carbon

View Full-Text 

Phases of oil exploration and exploitation in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon

Diego Quiroga and Carlos F. Mena

This article explores the way in which the communities living in the Ecuadorian Amazon Forest (Oriente) have developed different responses to the incursion of the oil companies. We also seek to explain why the diverse communities have responded in different ways. There are a series of factors that account for the differences which include the different degree of organization of the indigenous communities, the different legal framework but at the national and international level, the different environmental and social practices of the oil companies and the changing role of NGOs and other external organizations. This article explores the reasons that explain why communities living in the Oriente have developed different responses to the incursion of the oil companies. A series of factors account for the different responses, including the degree of organization of the indigenous communities, when and how they got access to their land titles, changes in the legal framework both at the national and international level, the different environmental and social practices of the oil companies and the changing role of NGOs and other external organizations. We argue that these factors have determined the way in which the communities feel and perceive their sense of entitlement and their acceptance or rejection of the oil companies In general, communities in general reacted more passively to the invasion of an oil company when initial contact was made by the oil company itself and by missionaries. However, communities with more organizational and cultural capacities showed a more organized reaction to the same incursion of an oil company.

Territorial dynamics in mining conflicts: A comparative analysis of two local mining conflicts in Ecuador

Consuelo Fernández, Duygu Avci

In Ecuador, promotion of large-scale mining as a main pillar of the development project of the Correa government has triggered conflicts at the local level, as well as intense public debate concerning the relationship between resource extraction and development. While in public debate the positions are usually more polarized, at the actual areas of large-scale mining projects there is much more diversity and ambiguity in the positions of the social actors regarding mining, and in the ways they engage with the state institutions and the extractive industry. In this paper, we critically compare the contexts of two different mining sites in Ecuador, the Project of Mirador in the province of Zamora Chinchipe and Intag, located in the province of Imbabura. Here, we analyze how territorial dynamics play out in these conflicts and their relation to heterogeneous local responses, political positions and claims, more specifically to explain why and how in Intag a strong opposition was constructed, while in Mirador the resistance to mining remained rather weak and divided.

Keywords: Mining conflicts; territory; territorial dynamics; identity production; development visions

View Full-Text 

 A validated agent-based model to study the spatial and temporal heterogeneities of malaria incidence in the rainforest environment

Francesco Pizzitutti, William Pan, Alisson Barbieri, J Jaime Miranda, Beth Feingold, Gilvan R. Guedes, Javiera Alarcon-Valenzuela and Carlos F. Mena

Background:  The Amazon environment has been exposed in the last decades to radical changes that have been accompanied by a remarkable rise of both Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax malaria.  The malaria transmission process is highly influenced by factors such as spatial and temporal heterogeneities of the environment and individual-based models.

Methods:  This paper presents a validated agent-based model of local-scale malaria transmission.  The model reproduces the environment of a typical riverine village in the northern Peruvian Amazon, where the malaria transmission is highly seasonal and apparently associated with flooding of large areas caused by the neighboring river.  Agents representing humans, mosquitoes and the two species of Plasmodium (P. falciparum and P. vivax) are simulate in a spatially explicit representation of the environment around the village.  The model environment includes: climate, people houses positions and elevation.  A representation of changes in the mosquito breeding areas extension caused by the river flooding is also included in the simulation environment.

Results:  A calibration process was carried out to reproduce the variations of the malaria monthly incidence over a period of 3 years.  The calibrated model is also able to reproduce the spatial heterogeneities of local scale malaria transmission.  A “what if” eradication strategy scenario is proposed; if the mosquito breeding sites are eliminated through  mosquito larva habitat management in a buffer area extended at least 200 m around the village, the malaria transmission is eradicated from the village.

Conclusions:  The use of agent-based models can reproduce effectively the spatiotemporal variations of the malaria transmission in a low endemicity environment dominated by river floodings like in the Amazon

Keywords:  Agent-based model, Malaria, Amazon, Low endemicity, Anopheles darling, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium falciparum. 

View Full-Text  

 Remote Sensing of Invasive Species in the Galapagos Islands: Comparison of Pixel-Based, Principal Component, and Object-Oriented Image Classification Approaches

Carolina Sampedro, Carlos F. Mena

The application of remote sensing techniques in threatened ecosystems such as the Galapagos Islands has shown to be a powerful tool for decision-making. Specifically in the case of San Cristobal Island, it will allow accurate mapping and modeling techniques at relatively low costs for battling invasive species such as guava and wax apple. This research evaluates the performance of three classification techniques for land cover mapping in the agricultural area of San Cristobal in the Galapagos: (a) pixel-based hybrid (supervised/unsupervised classification), (b) principal component pixel-based hybrid, and (c) object-oriented image hybrid classifications. An evaluation of three parametric classification algorithms (maximum likelihood, Mahalanobis distance, and minimum distances) for classification technique was also performed. The goal was to compare and identify the best approach for determining LULC with a focus on invasive species such as guava in the highland territory. The results for both pixel-based approaches are superior than the object-based approach. Nevertheless, it was evident that the principal component classifications tend to mix signature responses and did not show the same discrimination ability. Per-pixel/hybrid classification with maximum likelihood and Mahalanobis distance performs a superior kappa index of 0.8640 and 0.8610, respectively, proving to be more sensitive toward identifying invasive species such as guava and wax apple fields.

2018_Sampedro_Remote Sensing of Invasive Species in the Galapagos Islands_Comparison of Pixel-Based, Principal Components, and Object-Oriented Image Classification Approaches

 Conflicts, Territories, and the Institutionalization of Post-Agrarian Economies on an Expanding Tourist Frontier in Quilotoa, Ecuador 

Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, Angélica Ordoñez, Homero Paltán López, Joe Quick, Diego Quiroga, Julie Williams

World Heritage and associated conservation-based tourism can generate significant national income, yet the top-down efforts to open up new tourist destinations can displace communities that are meant to benefit. In Ecuador, the administration of Rafael Correa has invested substantially in both new infrastructure and community level training in order to steer world heritage visitors into a more diversified tourist sector. Our research examined the attempt of one community at the crater lake Quilotoa (Cotopaxi province) to maintain control of their economy in the face of increased state investments. We asked, under what circumstances is a community able to both define and defend a zone of locally managed economic development? To answer the question, we carried out a participatory GIS mapping project focused on sites of conflict and community assemblies and supplemented the mapping with an economic survey and detailed career histories. Our research finds that, since 1988, cycles of conflicts within the community of Quilotoa and between Quilotoa and its neighbors came to define an effective, yet informal, territorial boundary within which residents were highly committed to mobilize to defend their work and investments. Interviews show the importance of territory as political resources used by the community to escalate commercial conflicts into matters of wide public concern and ultimately establish the institutional basis of non-agricultural work.

2018_Paltan_conflicts, territories, and the institutionalization of post agrarian economies on an expanding tourists frontier in Quilotoa

 CGlobal implications of 1.5 °C and 2 °C warmer worlds on extreme river flows

Homero Paltan, Myles Allen, Karsten Haustein, Lena Fuldauer, and Simon Dadson

Targets agreed to in Paris in 2015 aim to limit global warming to ‘well below 2 °C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels’. Despite the far-reaching consequences of this multi-lateral climate change mitigation strategy, the implications for global river flows remain unclear. Here we estimate the impacts of 1.5 °C versus 2.0 °C mitigation scenarios on peak flows by using daily river flow data from a multi-model ensemble which follows the HAPPI Protocol (that is specifically designed to simulate these temperature targets). We find agreement between models with regard to changing risk of river flow extremes. Moreover, we find that the response at 2.0 °C is not a uniform extension of the response at 1.5°, suggesting a non-linear global response of peak flows to the two mitigation levels. Yet committing to the 2.0 °C warming target, rather than 1.5 °C, is projected to lead to an increase in the frequency of occurrence of extreme flows in several large catchments. In the most affected areas, predominantly in South Asia, while region-specific features such as aerosol loads may determine precipitation patterns, we estimate that under our 1.5 °C scenario the historical 1-in-100 year flow occurs with a frequency of 1-in-25 years. At 2.0 °C, similar increases are observed in several global regions. These shifts are also accompanied by changes in the duration of rainy seasons which influence the occurrence of high flows.

2018_Paltan_Global implications of 1.5 °C and 2 °C warmer worlds on extreme river flows

 Food Supply System Dynamics in the Galapagos Island:  Agriculture, Livestock, and Imports 

Carolina Sampedro, Francesco Pizzitutti, Diego Quiroga, Stephen J. Walsh, Carlos F. Mena

The Galapagos Archipelago, as islands environment, have to deal with intrinsic disadvantages such as small size, remoteness, insularity, disaster proneness, and environmental fragility, which translate in limited access to natural and social resources (ONU, 1994) generating dependence on a narrow range of products and incrementing import reliance, which in turn compromise the Galapagos inhabitants´ food security.  In this context, this research applied an SD model approach in order to identify the driving forces and relationships that influence the food availability system through the analysis of its variables and interactions, to understand how population growth and food consumption in the Galapagos Islands are related to supply dynamics such as local agriculture production and food imports. It was observed that local production keeps a decreasing trend in the three scenarios, as well as an imports reliance increase. Also, agricultural areas in the Galápagos Islands are regulated mostly by cattle ranching activities, which present an increasing trend due to meat importation restrictions.  And, that while production keeps expanding into the agricultural area, a more effective control of invasive species is possible. In this regard, Galapagos food security depends on a decreasing local farming and an increasing dependence on food imports, what in turn increases the vulnerability of the islands food security. These three growth scenarios as well as production and consumption tendencies, further proves the difficulties and limitations of the Galapagos Island´s food security. Therefore, overcome the island disadvantages towards a self-reliance in local production is a goal to pursue.  

2018_Sampedro_Food supply dynamics in the Galapagos Islands_Agriculture, livestock and imports

 The Political Ecology of Oil Palm Company-Community partnerships in the Peruvian Amazon: Deforestation consequences of the privatization of rural development

Aoife Bennett, Ashwin Ravikumar, Homero Paltán

When agricultural commodities are traded globally, consumer demand in one region influences the crops planted in another, often leading to widespread environmental and social transformation at the production sites. As a commodity crop that prospers in tropical environments, oil palm has become controversial for its role as a driver of deforestation and social conflict, especially in main producer countries in Southeast Asia. As suitable land for oil palm production in Southeast Asia is depleting, companies have begun to look to new production frontiers, such as Latin America. Colombia and Peru have the highest percentage growth in the sector in recent years, and the crop has become a dominant strategy for development in the Peruvian Amazon. Between 2000 and 2015, 40,000 hectares of old growth forest have been cleared for large oil palm plantations in Peru. Company-Community partnerships (CCPs) have been advanced as a potentially more socially and environmentally sustainable strategy, through their alleged capacity to provide greater productivity and more efficient land use on smallholder farms. This paper describes the social, political and deforestation impact of an oil palm CCP at the forest frontier in the Peruvian Amazon. An interdisciplinary and mixed methods research approach was employed, including long-term ethnographic work and visual measurement remote sensing of land use change on 2447 hectares of smallholder land in four villages/communities. The results show that the recent arrival of powerful private companies has caused a major socio-ecological shift on the ground, particularly through the CCP. On comparing participating farms to non-participating farms, we find significant deforestation ‘spillage’ out of the plantation into participating farms. A major underlying driver of the negative outcomes of the CCP is the neoliberal policy approach employed by the Peruvian government, which has outsourced basic rural public works to private companies. We conclude by discussing how a more socially and environmentally just oil palm production strategy in Peru and elsewhere might look.

2018_Paltan_The Political Ecology of Oil Palm Company-Community partnerships in the Peruvian Amazon

Out of the net: An agent-based model to study human movements influence on localscale malaria transmission

Francesco Pizzitutti1, William Pan, Beth Feingold, Ben Zaitchik, Carlos A. A ´lvarez, Carlos F. Mena

Though malaria control initiatives have markedly reduced malaria prevalence in recent decades, global eradication is far from actuality. Recent studies show that environmental and social heterogeneities in low-transmission settings have an increased weight in shaping malaria micro-epidemiology. New integrated and more localized control strategies should be developed and tested. Here we present a set of agent-based models designed to study the influence of local scale human movements on local scale malaria transmission in a typical Amazon environment, where malaria is transmission is low and strongly connected with seasonal riverine flooding. The agent-based simulations show that the overall malaria incidence is essentially not influenced by local scale human movements. In contrast, the locations of malaria high risk spatial hotspots heavily depend on human movements because simulated malaria hotspots are mainly centered on farms, were laborers work during the day. The agent-based models are then used to test the effectiveness of two different malaria control strategies both designed to reduce local scale malaria incidence by targeting hotspots. The first control scenario consists in treat against mosquito bites people that, during the simulation, enter at least once inside hotspots revealed considering the actual sites where human individuals were infected. The second scenario involves the treatment of people entering in hotspots calculated assuming that the infection sites of every infected individual is located in the household where the individual lives. Simulations show that both considered scenarios perform better in controlling malaria than a randomized treatment, although targeting household hotspots shows slightly better performance.

2018_Pizzitutti_Mena_Out of the net_an agent based model to study human movements influence on local scale malaria transmission

 Urban Land Cover Change in Ecologically Fragile Environments: The Case of the Galapagos Islands

Fátima L. Benítez,  Carlos F. Mena, Leo Zurita-Arthos

The Galapagos Islands are a unique sanctuary for wildlife and have gone through a fluctuating process of urbanization in the three main inhabited islands. Despite being colonized since the 1800s, it is during the last 25 years that a dramatic increase in population has been observed. Analyzing impervious surface change over this period in an ecologically fragile environment is a challenging task, thus two methods that have been widely employed in studying urban environments were compared in this study: sub-pixel using spectral mixture analyses (SMA) and object-based classification. The SMA linear model, applied over moderate spatial resolution imagery, does not produce accurate results for urban composition mapping showing significant spectral confusion between classes. Instead, the object-based classification using spectral indices proved to be more effective for detecting impervious surfaces over heterogeneous urban environments in inhabited islands. The accuracy assessment showed a correlation between estimated and true impervious surface abundance fraction higher than first expected (R2 = 67.7%) for the object-based classification, considering the limitations of pixel size (Landsat imagery) in small heterogeneous urban landscapes. Hence, this methodology was applied to all three urban centers for further analysis. Through this assessment, the average annual growth rate in urban areas was calculated as 3.3% from 1992 to 2017. The foreseen applications and local implications for land planning and management are especially important for the Galapagos Islands. There is a need for planning systems and processes that involve all stakeholders, in order to support pre-existing conservation initiatives and sustainable development policies.

Keywords: inhabited islands; urbanization; SMA; object-based classification; Galapagos

View Full-Text

 Chapter 3: Perspectives for the study of the Galapagos Islands: Complex Systems and Human-Environment Interactions

Stephen J. Walsh, Carlos F. Mena

Complexity theory and complex adaptive systems offer a theoretical framework to examine dynamic and coupled natural–human systems within a policy-relevant context. We advocate an Island Biocomplexity perspective that encompasses the coevolution and adaptive resilience of island ecosystems with a new island ecology that incorporates human impacts in coupled natural–human systems. Agent-based models (ABMs), as implementation tools, are described as an approach to examine “what-if” scenarios of change of linked social–ecological systems that involve heterogeneous agents (i.e., individuals and households), a dynamic environment, and exogenous forces and endogenous factors that combine in complex ways to alter social, terrestrial, and marine subsystems in the Galapagos Islands. Despite the fact that most of the new ABM advances are still experimental with few practical applications and few are being used in policy making, these frameworks offer a new way to understand the local interactions and regional patterns within the Galapagos Islands.

Keywords: Migration; Chlorophyll; Economic Crisis; Income; Radar 

View Full-Text 

Chapter 6: Remote Sensing of the Marine Environment: Challenges and Opportunities in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador

Laura Brewington, Brian G. Frizzelle, Stephen J. Walsh, Carlos F. Mena, Carolina Sampedro

Analysis of marine and coastal systems is of fundamental importance to environmental scientists, engineers, and managers. Since the 1960s, remote sensing has played an important role in characterizing the marine environment, with particular emphasis on sea surface features, temperature, and salinity; mapping of shorelines, wetlands, and coral reefs; local fisheries and species movements; tracking hurricanes, earthquakes, and coastal flooding; and changes in coastal upwelling and marine productivity. This chapter reviews marine applications of remote sensing worldwide, exploring contemporary satellite systems, research themes, and analytical methods. In the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, marine remote sensing has been limited to the use of large-scale daily image-gathering systems, such as CZCS, MODIS, SeaWiFS, and AVHRR, due to persistent cloud cover and constrained research budgets. Recent advances in satellite technology and availability, however, offer new opportunities for remote sensing in the Galapagos archipelago and beyond. Moderate-resolution sensors like SPOT and Landsat continue to be relevant for regional-scale evaluations of marine and coastal environments, identifying hotspots or focal areas for the use of more fine-grained imagery like QuickBird, WorldView-2, and aerial photographs. Radar systems like Aquarius and SAR show promise in new lines of oceanographic research, including sea surface salinity and the differentiation of mangrove subspecies. The use of ancillary or in situ data for calibration and validation of remotely-sensed image analysis can overcome the limitations of sensors used in bathymetric applications, while advances in cellular and GPS technology facilitate real-time reporting from citizen scientists for integrated monitoring of environmental and social change.

View Full-Text  

Chapter 11: Shifting Baselines in the Galapagos White Fin Fishery, Using Fisher’s Anecdotes to Reassess Fisheries Management: The Case of the Galapagos Grouper

Diana V. Burbano, Carlos F. Mena, Paulina Guarderas, Luis Vinueza, Gunther Reck

This study links social and ecological aspects of the white fin fishery in San Cristobal Island. This is a traditional fishery focused at first on the Galapagos grouper (Mycteroperca olfax), a top predator and an iconic species of the archipelago as part of a traditional dish to celebrate Easter on the continent. We used anecdotal information and perceptions provided by three generations of fisherman to understand the impacts of fishing on the dried and salted fishery. Significant differences were found among fishers’ groups surveyed and interviewed for this study. The oldest group indicated a greater past abundance of the Galapagos grouper than the other two younger age groups. The close relationship between fishers and their activity have generated certain knowledge about marine environments, its species, and the dynamics developed in their fishing areas, creating a perception of changes in this fishery.

View Full Text  

 A methodology for mapping native and invasive vegetation coverage in archipelagos: An example from Galápagos Islands 

Gonzalo F. Rivas-Torres, Fátima L. Benítez, Danny Rueda, Christian Sevilla, Carlos F. Mena

This study develops a mixed, systematic, low-cost methodology to define and map native vegetation and the spread of the most aggressive invasive species in islands biomes, focusing on the Galápagos National Park (GNP). Based on preliminary legends defined by experts, Landsat 8/OLI fusion imagery was used for object-oriented classification to obtain the vegetation map of this archipelago. This technique was later verified and validated using high-resolution images from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, i.e., drones) and dedicated satellites, ground truthing, and visual confirmation around GNP coasts. This mixed methodology allowed mapping of nine native ecosystems, six invasive-dominated vegetation units, and two types of lavas. Around 53.63% of GNP is covered by native ecosystems and *2.2% is “canopy” dominated by invasive species to date. Native-dominated deciduous forest types cover *40.8% of the GNP and only *12.8% of the protected
area is nowadays covered by humid and transitional type native ecosystems. Among humid native ecosystems, those distributed in the highlands only cover 4.8% and are highly threatened by invasive species, which are mostly distributed in these summit areas. Of the five islands (out of 18) recording invasivedominated units, Isabela and Santa Cruz were the most infested. Cedrela odorata, Pennisetum purpureum, and Psidium guajava were the main invasive plants dominating the GNP canopy. Highly noxious Rubus niveus was the only invasive species dominating areas among the five infested islands. Methodology detailed here proved useful to provide accurate spatially-explicit islands vegetation data, potential for replication in time, and is expected to aid suitable management of highly endangered and unique biotas in this and other tropical island biomes.

Keywords: Drones, Galápagos National Park, invasive species, Landsat 8, UAVs, native and endemic species

View Full-Text 

Community Monitoring of Environmental Liabilities in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon: Basis and Lesson Learned

Carlos F. Mena, Murta Arsel, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Marti Orta-Martinez, Pablo Fajardo, Ermel Chávez, Alexandra Guevara, Paola Espin

This paper reports on an ongoing initiative that seeks to enhance the detection, monitoring, and reporting capabilities of local communities in the Northern Ecuadorina Amazon throuth the introduction of hardware and digital tools, as a strategy to strengthen their ability to produce socio-environmental evidence.  A Community Based Monitoring (CBM) system has been created to link social organizations, fighting for environmental justice, and academics working on the region in topics related to oil extraction and environmental change.  This paper first, conceptualize the need for rural participatory systems of data collection, analysis, and distribution of environmental liabilities in extractive frontiers.  Second, the paper provides a description of this community monitoring system in the Ecuadorian Amazon, in a way thata can be used by communities and researchers in different contexts.  Finally, the paper reflects on lessons learned to understand the main challenges and opportunities of similar systems.

In Press

Place versus Space: From Points, Lines and Polygons in GIS to Place-Based Representations Reflecting Language and Culture

Thomas Blaschke, Helena Merschdorf, Pablo Cabrera-Barona, Song Gao, Emmanuel Papadakis and Anna Kovacs-Györi

Around the globe, Geographic Information Systems (GISs) are well established in the daily workflow of authorities, businesses and non-profit organisations. GIS can effectively handle spatial entities and offer sophisticated analysis and modelling functions to deal with space. Only a small fraction of the literature in Geographic Information Science—or GIScience in short—has advanced the development of place, addressing entities with an ambiguous boundary and relying more on the human or social attributes of a location rather than on crisp geographic boundaries. While the GIScience developments support the establishment of the digital humanities, GISs were never designed to handle subjective or vague data. We, an international group of authors, juxtapose place and space in English language and in several other languages and discuss potential consequences for Geoinformatics and GIScience. In particular, we address the question of whether linguistic and cultural settings play a role in the perception of place. We report on some facts revealed by this multi-language and multi-cultural dialogue, and what particular aspects of place we were able to discern regarding the few languages addressed.

2018_Cabrera_Place versus Space_From Points, Lines and Polygons in GIS to Place-Based Representations Reflecting Language and Culture In Press