Conesa, F. C., Orengo, H. A., Lobo, A., & Petrie, C. A. (2023). An Algorithm to Detect Endangered Cultural Heritage by Agricultural Expansion in Drylands at a Global Scale. In Remote Sensing (Vol. 15, Issue 1).


This article presents AgriExp, a remote-based workflow for the rapid mapping and monitoring of archaeological and cultural heritage locations endangered by new agricultural expansion and encroachment. Our approach is powered by the cloud-computing data cataloguing and processing capabilities of Google Earth Engine and it uses all the available scenes from the Sentinel-2 image collection to map index-based multi-aggregate yearly vegetation changes. A user-defined index threshold maps the first per-pixel occurrence of an abrupt vegetation change and returns an updated and classified multi-temporal image aggregate in almost-real-time. The algorithm requires an input vector table such as data gazetteers or heritage inventories, and it performs buffer zonal statistics for each site to return a series of spatial indicators of potential site disturbance. It also returns time series charts for the evaluation and validation of the local to regional vegetation trends and the seasonal phenology. Additionally, we used multi-temporal MODIS, Sentinel-2 and high-resolution Planet imagery for further photo-interpretation of critically endangered sites. AgriExp was first tested in the arid region of the Cholistan Desert in eastern Pakistan. Here, hundreds of archaeological mound surfaces are threatened by the accelerated transformation of barren lands into new irrigated agricultural lands. We have provided the algorithm code with the article to ensure that AgriExp can be exported and implemented with little computational cost by academics and heritage practitioners alike to monitor critically endangered archaeological and cultural landscapes elsewhere.

Original article

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