EOC and Costa Rica’s national technology centre (Centro Nacional de Alta Tecnología, CeNAT) intend close cooperation in the field of earth observation. A corresponding agreement has now been signed in Costa Rica in the presence of Germany’s Minister of Education and Research, Dr. Johanna Wanka.
Costa Rica has an ambitious goal. This Central American state wants to be climate neutral by 2021. Accordingly, Costa Rica has for many years put great emphasis on environmentally responsible development and sustainable exploitation of its natural resources. Remote sensing can provide significant support for stakeholders involved in this effort. Satellites document changes in land use and the health of nature reserves and provide a basis for making decisions about future measures. Success achieved in Costa Rica could point the way ahead for the entire region. For this reason, the German Ministry of Education and Research is supporting science exchange between DLR (EOC) and this country of four million people.
The agreement that has now been concluded is an important step on the way to far reaching cooperation between the remote sensing experts at EOC and CeNAT. The partnership gives the EOC scientists an opportunity to adapt and improve their methodologies for specific local situations using the regional expertise of their Latin American colleagues. In return, earth observation services and monitoring instruments for Costa Rica and Latin America are to be developed locally with the help of DLR. A free-of-charge data stream from Copernicus, the European earth observation programme will be a primary data source.
At their first working session in Costa Rica, representatives from EOC, universities, research institution and public authorities identified the first major tasks they want to tackle jointly. They include monitoring Costa Rican nature reserves, which now comprise a quarter of the land area, and calculating the country’s climate balance. Thanks to a ban on deforestation at the end of the 1980s, the proportion of forested land in Costa Rica has increased from 20% to over 50% of the land surface. This recovery makes an important contribution to climate protection, which could be quantified using remote sensing methodologies and in the future capitalized through compensatory payments. However, serious conflicts over land use exist, for example, because of the strong growth of the metropolitan area in and around the capital, San José, which is home to over two million people, about half of Costa Rica’s population. Industrial-scale agriculture, covering some 40% of Costa Rica’s land surface, is problematic because of its extent and the use of pesticides. Between 2000 and 2012 there was more than a six-fold increase in the acreage devoted to growing pineapples, for example.
With remote sensing it is possible to both qualitatively and quantitatively identify various types of land use and their interactions for all of Costa Rica. This information can be drawn on to improve the management of limited resources in order to develop concepts for their sustainable use.
The high potential for wide-ranging cooperation with Costa Rica was summarized in a proposal for the MONEO project (Monitoring the Neotropical Environment through Earth Observation). It has the goal of combining science activities and developments in and with Costa Rica by making use of the European space programme Copernicus, thereby smoothing the way for establishing earth observation services for Latin America and the Caribbean.