InSAR data for geohazard assessment in UNESCO World Heritage sites: state-of-the-art and perspectives in the Copernicus era
Deodato Tapete ; Francesca Cigna
Dec - 2017
DOI: 10.1016/j.jag.2017.07.007

journal : International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation

Volume : 63 ; Issue : December 2017
type: Article Journal

Protection of natural and cultural heritage is encompassed by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and is among the innovative applications and services of the European Union’s Earth Observation programme Copernicus. We are currently witnessing an increasing exploitation of Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) methods to assess geohazards affecting cultural heritage. This paper offers the first data mining exercise to identify InSAR geoinformation that is digitally available and/or published and that spatially includes one or more cultural, natural and mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS). The exercise focused on the 45 countries of geographical Europe, Turkey, Israel and the Russian Federation, and their 445 WHS of Outstanding Universal Value. We built a database of academic and grey literature collated via a Boolean search of the ISI Web of Science catalogue and systematic skim-reading to a total number of 280 publications as of the end of 2016. Over 460 InSAR open access digital datasets were also analysed. We found clusters of WHS covered by InSAR data in Italy, the Netherlands, western Germany, eastern Spain, Greece and the UK that match with the geographic distribution of InSAR expertise and geohazard hotspots. The existing stock of InSAR geoinformation already provides an overall WHS coverage of 36%, with similar proportion of available data for ‘urban’ (40%) and ‘rural’ (34%) WHS. The sites with the highest number of publications are historic city centres (e.g. Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Lisbon, Paris, Rome), as well as Permanent Geohazard Supersites (e.g. Mt. Etna, Naples, Istanbul), where the impact of natural and/or anthropogenic processes is well known. First generation SAR data (mainly ERS-1/2) predominate in the literature with over 15 new publications/year since 2002, whilst second and third generation data show less pronounced rates since 2007 and 2014, respectively. The current engagement level of end-users appears still limited (less than 1% of publications involve heritage stakeholders), and a shared guidance on the use of InSAR for heritage practitioners does not exist yet. Towards the development of Copernicus’ services and applications in support of cultural heritage preservation and management, our analysis contributes to: outline the existing capabilities; focus on requirements for bespoke InSAR-derived products and services; and consider possible implementation scenarios both in emergency and ordinary circumstances.

keywords : Satellite InSAR, Persistent scatterers, Data mining, Cultural heritage, UNESCO, Geological hazard