LandSense citizen observatory

The Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) Program has won funding for LandSense, a new citizen observatory and innovation marketplace for land use and land cover monitoring. Providing critical monitoring of change on the ground, the project will also include campaigns involving multiple stakeholders to ensure that citizen observations contribute to EU-wide environmental governance and decision making.

© Ruslanbosikov | Dreamstime

© Ruslanbosikov | Dreamstime

Steffen Fritz, group leader of ESM’s Earth Observation Systems (EOS) group, was successful in his bid for the Horizon2020 project LandSense. The Geo-Wiki tool for visualization, crowdsourcing, and validation of land cover [1][2] and the newly developed LACO-Wiki land cover validation tool [3] will have a central role in the new citizen observatory (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The LandSense Citizen Observatory concept and approach.

Four main services will be developed to aid land use and land cover monitoring:

  • LandSense Campaigner: to initiate data collection by citizens.
  • FarmLand Support: to offer operational decision making for farm management.
  • Change Detector: to provide near real-time high quality land-use and land-cover (LULC) change detection from the latest Sentinel 2 imagery.
  • Quality Assurance and Control: to add confidence measures to citizen-contributed data and play a critical role in the acceptance of the data by public bodies, national mapping agencies, industry, and decision makers.

Working with a variety of stakeholders from mapping agencies to city planning authorities, the LandSense citizen observatory will provide:

  • Cost reduction and data conflation in monitoring land change: to analyze how citizen-contributed data may complement authoritative data sources and provide quality-assured, cost-effective solutions for LULC monitoring. Case studies include Vienna and Tulln in Austria, Heidelberg in Germany, and areas in France in conjunction with the French National Mapping Agency.
  • Monitoring agricultural land use and provision of value-added agricultural services: to demonstrate how remote sensing can contribute to monitoring and decision support for agricultural practices. Case studies will take place in Slovenia and Serbia.
  • Forest and habitat monitoring using innovative technologies: to involve citizens in monitoring habitats in near-real time with an additional crowdfunding mechanism for unlocking very high resolution satellite imagery (50-70 cm) to verify the nature of the change, in particular illegal activities. Austria, Indonesia, and Spain will be the main focus.


[1] Fritz S, McCallum I, Schill C, Perger C, See L, Schepaschenko D, van der Velde M, Kraxner F & Obersteiner M (2012). Geo-Wiki: An online platform for land cover validation and the improvement of global land cover. Environmental Modeling and Software, 31: 110-123.

[2] See L, Fritz S, Perger C, Schill C, McCallum I, Schepaschenko D, Karner, M, Kraxner F, Obersteiner M (2015). Harnessing the power of volunteers, the Internet and Google Earth to collect and validate global spatial information using Geo-Wiki. Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

[3] See L, Perger C, Hofer M, Weichselbaum J, Dresel C & Fritz S (2015). LACO-Wiki: An open access online portal for land cover validation. In: ISPRS Annals of Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Science, II-3/W5, 167-171. 


Birdlife International, UK

Sinergise, Slovenia

University of Nottingham, UK

InoSens doo, Serbia

GeoVille Information Systems GmbH, Austria

Environment Agency Austria

Institut National de l’Information Géographique et Forestière, France

European Citizen Science Association, Germany

StZ Felis, Germany

University of Heidelberg, Germany

Wageningen University, Netherlands

VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands

Joint Research Centre, Italy

Secure Dimensions GmbH, Germany

Friends of the Earth/Global 2000, Austria

City of Heidelberg, Germany 

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Last edited: 10 March 2016


Steffen Fritz

Program Director and Principal Research Scholar Strategic Initiatives Program

Principal Research Scholar Novel Data Ecosystems for Sustainability Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Linda See

Senior Research Scholar Novel Data Ecosystems for Sustainability Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

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