Open Topical Collections

Deep learning for earth resource and environmental remote sensing

Guest Editors: Carlos Enrique Montenegro Marin, Xuyun Zhang, Nallappan Gunasekaran

In the current era, climate change is the biggest problem mankind is facing, which forms several other environmental consequences. Earth resource and environmental monitoring are fundamental for the preservation of a proper environment in the long term. It is an efficient tool to assess environmental conditions and natural resources supporting sustainable policy developments, regulatory measures, and their implementation enriching the ecosystem positively. Remote sensing provides essential data that assists in monitoring various aspects of the environment such as land cover classification, change detection, wildlife management, forest fire detection, discovery and mapping of rugged topography of the ocean floors, etc. Overall, it presents a global perspective and a plethora of data about the earth systems. Remotely sensed data could be of spectral, temporal, and spatial resolutions.  Remote sensing data obtained from earth resources and satellites require processing before it is efficiently used by the researchers and the earth scientists. The finer the resolution, the more details can be extracted from the images. The major concern here is that it is often difficult to combine all of the desirable features (spatial, temporal, spectral) in a single remote sensor. In short, interpreting satellite and sensor data is not an easy task. Hence, researchers need to make trade-offs, and they should carefully understand and select the type of data that is suitable for any given scenario of study. This is where exactly the role of deep learning comes into the picture for remote sensing applications. 

Over many decades, researchers have been actively involved in applying various algorithmic approaches to resolve the challenges of interpreting earth images. The intersection of deep learning and environmental remote sensing creates massive opportunities that were not possible before. Broadly speaking, deep learning can create a revolution in various earth resource and environmental remote sensing applications opening up an entirely novel frontier of tools and algorithms useful for earth monitoring with state-of-the-art results. This is because the potential of deep learning for earth imagery is immense and would grow rapidly so that more avenues can be explored. This includes air monitoring, water monitoring, waste monitoring, biodiversity conservation, etc. It provides complementary information to effectively meet the requirements of ground-level environmental remote sensing applications with unprecedented levels of accuracy. However, with the growing revolution in big data, applying deep learning techniques for earth observation can be a little challenging for even basic workflows. Thus, to effectively address these concerns and leverage deep learning advances, this thematic issue invites cutting-edge research works on deep learning for earth resource and environmental remote sensing applications.

The topic of interest includes the following:

  • Deep learning for land cover and land change analysis
  • Innovations in deep learning for UAV remote sensing and real-time processing
  • Deep learning assisted coastal zone remote sensing for environmental sustainability
  • Data processing, interpretation, and analysis of environmental resources with deep learning algorithms
  • Deep learning for vegetation status monitoring and applications
  • Challenges in intersecting deep learning with earth resources management and its appropriate solutions
  • Deep learning and computer vision applications to geospatial analysis
  • Role of deep learning in disaster mitigation planning and recovery
  • Deep learning assisted remote sensing for wildlife management and biodiversity conservation
  • Moving forward with satellite imagery and deep learning applications from a future perspective

Landslides in a Changing Environment

Guest Editors: Mihai Ciprian Mărgărint, Marta Jurchescu

Landslides are widespread natural geomorphological processes that shape the Earth surface, especially in mountainous and hilly regions. Their occurrence is related to many static and dynamic factors and represents a permanent threat to humans, their properties and environment. During the last decades, several landslide triggers (especially climate and human pressure) recorded a series of changes that are reflected in an increased impact of landslides, affecting more and more humans on all continents. The understanding of past events, present-day distribution and the prediction of future events are milestones for scientists aiming to decipher the mechanisms in which landslides occur and develop. Future global and regional climate changes overlapping with constantly rising pressures through the anthropized spaces will lead to increased exposures and vulnerabilities to landslide risk. In this way, new complex challenges emerge and need to be tackled and shared within the scientific world as well as the practitioners and decision makers, in order to develop adaptive measures and strategies for disaster risk reduction. At the same time, recent technological advancements constantly enriched the methodology and the themes of landslide research.  New tools, technologies and methods became available, revolutionizing the wide spectrum of issues related to the understanding and prediction of landslides: from integrated data provided by instrumental monitoring networks and process-based modeling, that focus on physical laws of slope instability at the local scale, to new Earth Observation technologies and increasingly complex computational modeling of landslide hazard and risk at regional, national, continental and global scales. 

In this unprecedented complex context of both challenges and opportunities for landslides studies, the current special issue welcomes high-quality scientific papers from all over the world to contribute novel knowledge in a wide range of landslide research topics:

  • innovative tools, approaches and technologies in landslide detection, mapping, monitoring and modeling
  • the mechanics, dynamics and causes of different landslide types by field and laboratory studies
  • landslide historical and event-based inventories
  • paleo-landslides and reconstruction of their environmental conditions
  • process-based models in landslide prediction
  • climate change and landslide behavior responses
  • extreme meteorological events and landslides
  • landslide early warning systems (LEWSs)
  • the role of anthropogenic factors and land use changes on landslide activity
  • the place of landslides in the concatenated multi-hazard succession
  • quantitative approaches in landslide susceptibility, hazard and risk assessments
  • evaluation of uncertainties affecting landslide prediction and forecasting
  • landslide risk management and adaptation strategies
  • landslide risk perception, communication and policies

The Soil-Water-Atmosphere Nexus

Guest Editors: Daniel Karthe, Lulu Zhang, Sabrina Kirschke, Nora Adam, Serena CaucciEdeltraud Günther 

During the Anthropocene, human activities have significantly altered the natural environment. Both from an assessment and a management perspective, it is important to consider the interlinkages between different environmental compartments such as the pedosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere and the atmosphere.

For example, soil degradation through erosion, compaction, salinization, or chemical pollution damages not only our land's fertility and productivity (which are prerequisites for feeding a growing population), but also key soil functions to store carbon, filter and purify water, and inhabit biodiversity. Changes in the biotic and abiotic environment are connected by a complex set of interrelations; they are also highly relevant to socioeconomic development. 

We invite manuscripts that consider the pedosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere in an integrated perspective. They may focus on any one of the following aspects: 

• scientific investigation of interactions/interrelations between different environmental resources/compartments

• integrated impact assessment of anthropogenic activities that affect more than one of the environmental resources/compartments

• integrated technology-based solutions that support the conservation of more than one environmental resource/compartment

• holistic management and governance approaches that consider at least two environmental resources/compartments concomitantly

• sustainability assessment from an organizational perspective with a focus on management impact, and synergies/trade-offs between different objectives 

Manuscripts may look beyond pedosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere, but must refer to at least two of these compartments. Papers with a demonstrated relevance to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are particularly welcome. Articles that focus solely on climatological, hydrological or pedological processes without considering interlinkages to other spheres of the terrestrial environment are outside the scope of this thematic issue.

Deep Geological Disposal (DGD)

Guest Editors: Thomas Nagel, Wolfram Rühaak, Florian Amann, Guido Bracke, Stefan Buske, Julia Kowalski, Sönke Reiche, Thorsten Schäfer, Traugott Scheytt, Thorsten Stumpf, Holger Völzke, Florian Wellmann

The safe deposition of hazardous waste in geological repositories is one of the most pressing challenges for environmental and geoscience. It affects economies which continue to rely on nuclear energy as well as those which are undergoing an energy transition towards renewable sustainable energy sources along with a phase-out of nuclear energy sources. Therefore, activities are increasing worldwide for searching and establishing deep geological disposal sites, in particular for high-level radioactive waste (HLW). In Germany, a new site selection process was started in 2017 that has yielded first intermediate results recently. Different countries are at different stages in the site selection process, and only in a few select countries sites have already been identified. However, there is still no HLW disposal site in operation, yet.

This topical collection addresses environmental, geoscientific, geotechnical and engineering challenges associated with the identification, design, licensing, construction and operation of deep geological disposal. We invite research papers related to experimental and numerical studies with respect to the safe enclosure of radionuclides in a repository, studies on repository designs, challenges associated with monitoring, recovery and retrieval of the waste as well as related issues. Research studies from underground laboratories or from natural analogues providing insight into the complex physical and chemical processes on the relevant time scales are invited as well.

The Topical Collection “Deep Geological Disposal” invites manuscript submissions related to the above-mentioned topics.

Earth Surface Processes and Environment in a Changing World: Sustainability, Climate Change and Society

Guest Editors: Alberto Gomes, Horácio García, Alejandro Gomez, Helder I. Chaminé

Earth surface processes, climatic change and land-use change are key issues worldwide. Sustainability is often highlighted across the natural, environmental, and social sciences, plus the effects on the natural systems and georesources. Human impacts to ecosystems exemplify the most unexpected and extensive forms of direct environmental change. In addition, modes of reaction will be introduced which indirectly involve geomorphic, geological, hydrological, climatic, ecological, and societal systems changes over spatial and temporal scales. In that view, geomorphology contributes decisively for a sustainability dimension by focusing on geological, hydrological, fluvial, cryospheric, and coastal processes. Thus, geomorphological investigations are based in the nexus processes – environment – society. This Topical Collection encourages submission of original manuscripts focused on the dynamics of coupled earth surface processes and the environment which underline the interlinkages with earth sciences, environmental sciences, water resources, natural resources, geohazards, geoheritage, and geoethics.

Highlights of the Topical Collection will:

  • Improve readers’ understanding on the interconnected multidisciplinary fields of geomorphology, earth sciences, environmental sciences, land use management, water resources, coastal zones, geohazards, sustainable natural resources and geoheritage.
  • Enhance the understanding of geomorphology and geological implications in model regions that exemplify how to understand the earth surface processes in a dynamic environment that shapes the development of the landscapes, sustainable natural resources management and societal impacts within a changing world.
  • Discuss the latest advances in earth surface processes and the environment from diverse backgrounds and highlight the role of climate change drivers, sustainability issues and societal pressures in natural systems.
  • Underline the role of applied geomorphology, mapping and natural hazards on the climate variability trends and engineering design.

Building stones and geomaterials through history and environments - from quarry to heritage. Insights of the conditioning factors

Guest Editors: Siegfried Siegesmund, Luís Sousa, Rubén Alfonso López

The relationship between man and rocks began already from the beginnings of the first groups of human beings, who used the rock formations as a refuge and den, to later be used as a construction material. The evolution of civilizations was accompanied by an evolution in the use of natural rocks as a building material, reaching the point of using them to build not only dwelling places but even to erect imposing buildings and monuments that today are part of the heritage cultural world. The advantage of using natural construction rocks lies in their availability and their great variety of textures, colors, and hardnesses, in addition to the fact that they do not need to be manufactured, as industrial construction materials currently are (Portland cement, bricks, etc.), the reason why its use is quite friendly with the environment.

Increasing economic, ecological and administrative restrictions as well as geological causes have led to selective supply shortages since the beginning of the 21st century.The problem with the introduction of new rocks with an equivalent decoration to a product introduced to the market is the equivalence of rock technical and rock physical properties. Possible differences can present themselves as damage or structural failure when used in buildings. To meet these requirements, dozens of new stones are presented on the market every year, while around 10000 different rock varieties may exist on the international market.

Ecologically, this globalization is problematic. A life cycle assessment study by the German Natural Stone Association (Natursteinverband 2010) shows, when comparing two typical façade constructions made of natural stone and glass over a period of 100 years, that natural stone façades require much less primary energy than glass elements both in production and in the use phase, so that -­ viewed over the entire life cycle -­ more than three times the amount of primary energy has to be used for glass façades. While only 4.4 kg CO2 per ton of natural stone are emitted for stones from Germany with a  transport distance of 100 km from the quarry to the construction site, the transport-­ related CO2 emissions for stones from other European countries (2000 km transport distance) are already 88 kg CO2 and for stones from Southeast Asia (18,600 km transport distance) around 265 kg CO2 per ton. Therefore the environmental control and the climate change on the globalization are under discussion.

However, both historical buildings and heritage monuments and sculptures are exposed to weathering and decay not only of natural agents, but also to anthropogenic activity, both voluntarily and involuntarily, the damage that has increased in the last two centuries due to increasing in world population.

The problem of weathering of natural construction rocks in buildings and historical monuments has been well known since ancient times, and the methods and techniques both for extracting rock from quarries and for conserving, protecting, and restoring them have evolved. This Special Issue collects a series of chapters on the weathering of rocks used in historical heritage in urban areas and their relationship with pollution and anthropogenic erosive agents, as well as the effects of natural agents such as moisture, sun, salt crystallization, etc., in addition to discussing key characteristics of building stones like marbles, sandstones, volcanic tuffs, gypsum, etc.

In fact, the actual features shown by the rocks are related with the intrinsic factors, which can be observed at quarry scale, and also derivated from the extraction and processing techniques. Therefore, from quarry to heritage, several factors should be considered and studied in order to fully understand the actual weathering features and correctly prevent the heritage destruction.

Groundwater quality and contamination and the application of GIS

Guest Editors: Narsimha Adimalla, Hui Qian

The aim of this special issue on “Groundwater quality and contamination and the application of GIS” is to identify the groundwater quality zones and sources of contaminants in groundwater and focus on the present state of the knowledge concerning the links between groundwater contamination and its quality for various uses. Proposed topics include, but are not limited to:  Groundwater geochemistry, source of ions and spatial distribution; Hydrochemical characteristics of groundwater quality and its suitability for drinking and irrigation purposes; Novel techniques for assessing risks to human populations consuming contaminated groundwater; Groundwater quality monitoring in arid and semiarid regions; Application of GIS to groundwater quality for drinking and irrigation; Effects of groundwater pollution and contamination source identification using multivariate statistical techniques; Impact of urbanization on groundwater quality and contamination process; Geospatial distribution and approaches to identify the groundwater contamination process.
Both research papers and review papers are welcome.

NovCare - Novel Methods for Subsurface Characterization and Monitoring: From Theory to Practice

Guest Editors: Uta Sauer and Peter Dietrich

There is a pressing need to improve our understanding of the subsurface and to better to better monitor and characterize systems affected by natural and anthropogenic influences by applying several direct and indirect tools that have high accuracy and suitable resolution across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Subsurface monitoring should address these challenges through selecting and implementing a variety of monitoring tools that are both technically robust, minimal invasive and cost-effective and through providing an effective means of investigating near surface structures, identification and parameterization relevant physical–chemical–biological processes, characterization interactions between different scales and even to detect any unforeseen events such as gas leakages or sink holes. Some of these tools for subsurface characterization and monitoring have reached a highly sophisticated level as a result of decades of utilization in e.g. the oil and gas exploration and have been adapted to overcome the shortcoming and restrictions using these tool box to accurately and precisely monitor and characterize aquifers, soils, and watersheds. Such a tool box of several techniques may be used collaboratively with numerical models to help verify that subsurface processes and interactions are taking place as predicted. Therefore, the predictive capabilities of numerical models could be improved.

Further development of monitoring technologies, of strategies for investigation, sampling and interpretation as well as of novel approaches and models enabling a joint interpretation are essential to improve the effectiveness of such a tool box for subsurface monitoring. The purpose of the International Conference series Novcare (Novel Methods for Subsurface Characterization and Monitoring: From Theory to Practice) is showcasing such novel developments and highlights examples of field applications of relevant approaches such as geophysics, direct-push technology, hydrogeological and hydrogeochemical field methods, joint inversion of multi-method data, in-situ measurements, wireless sensor networks, and remote sensing techniques.

Sustainable Utilization of Geosystems

Guest Editors: Ulf Huenken, Peter Dietrich, Olaf Kolditz

The use of subsurface resources from geosystems has become much more diverse in recent years and is characterised by increasing discussions about possible influences on our natural resources, such as groundwater and air pollution, soil contamination, or induced seismic events. In the future, increasing conflicts of geosystems use are foreseeable in the management of the subsurface. In addition to conventional management methods, such as mining or tunnel construction, the utilization of energy and energy carriers using new technologies as well as the geological short and long-term storage of material energy carriers (e.g. natural gas, hydrogen, compressed air), geothermal energy and the safe geological storage of waste have increasingly come into the focus of society and politics. In order to quantitatively understand the complex interrelationships in an anthropogenically influenced environment and to enable reliable forecasts, targeted scientific investigations are necessary in order to be able to use our georesources responsibly and sustainably.

The Topical Collection “Sustainable Use of Georessources” invites manuscript submission related to the above portfolio of a safe and sustainable utilization of geosystems.


Visual Data Exploration

Guest Editors: Karsten Rink, Roxana Bujack, Stefan Janicke, and Dirk Zeckzer

We would like to publish a Thematic Issue on „Visual Data Exploration”, employed to further the understanding of the Earth system with its short- and long-term processes. This is fundamental for challenging tasks, such as the prediction and management of land-, water-, energy-, and resource scarcity, as well as of natural disasters and their impact (e.g., earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods). The amount of data created by state-of-the-art high-resolution monitoring equipment and remote sensing methods as well as the output of environmental simulations on high-performance computers is growing faster than ever. Researchers analyse these complex data collections by using advanced visualisation methods in combination with their perceptual abilities and expert knowledge to gain information on the topic at hand. Intuitive and effective visual exploration techniques enable humans to formulate and test scientific hypotheses, to draw conclusions, and to interact with the data.

Geosphere-Anthroposphere Interlinked Dynamics: Geocomputing and New Technologies

Guest Editors: Sebastiano Trevisani, Marco Cavalli, Fabio Tosti

Understanding interactions between anthroposphere and geosphere (e.g., natural hazards, environmental pollution, impacts on ground and surface waters, land degradation, etc.) and forecasting their time/space evolution entails to face a challenging ill-posed problem, with high uncertainties affecting data and models, especially when urban areas or areas close to civil engineering infrastructures are considered. Advances achieved in many areas of technology and science (e.g., remote sensing, geophysical prospecting, drilling equipment, information technology, etc.) have contributed to improving current knowledge on these interlinked dynamics. In addition, the availability of ever-growing datasets allows for better insights into the mechanisms controlling these interactions. On the contrary, this may also increase the complexity of monitoring, modelling and forecasting procedures. In this regard, the use of advanced geocomputational methodologies such as machine learning, geostatistics, pattern recognition, geomorphometry and other computational-based approaches is nowadays gaining momentum. The special issue will aim to collect studies related to the analysis of geosphere-anthroposphere interlinked dynamics, also from the perspective of UN defined sustainable development goals. Examples related to the critical zone in urban areas as well as in the vicinity of infrastructures will be of interest for the special. Studies including applied mathematical/numerical approaches based on the use of new advanced methods/techniques (e.g., geophysics, remote sensing, etc.) will be particularly solicited and review papers in this research area will be also considered.

Global Change on Groundwater in Western Mediterranean Countries

Guest Editors: María Luisa Calvache, Carlos Duque, David Pulido-Velazquez

The Mediterranean areas are characterized by a climate with frequent droughts and irregular precipitations combined with high demographic pressures and water demands from society. Major drivers of global change include population growth and migration, climate change, urbanization and expansion of infrastructures, and changes in land use and pollution that will lead to impacts on the sustainability, quantity, quality, and management of water resources in the Western Mediterranean countries of both Southern Europe and North Africa.

Future scenarios in this region forecast the decline in streamflow and more irregular precipitation regimes reducing reservoir storage for population supply. In this context, groundwater becomes an increasingly strategic resource to meet water demand from irrigated and urban areas. Groundwater will play an important role in the freshwater cycle and have a buffering value enhancing impacts of extreme events (droughts or floods).

This special issue will integrate studies in this critical geographical environment linking water resources and global change assessment including impacts and adaptation strategies. It compiles research works analysing water resources issues at different spatial scale, specific environment of the location (e.g., coastal areas, alpine regions), climatic (eg. semi-arid, Mediterranean) and hydrological processes (e.g., inversion of precipitation gradient, groundwater recharge, flow and discharge, seawater intrusion, snow processes) and management particularities.

Thematic Issue: Water Problems in Eastern Mediterranean Countries (INVITATION ONLY)

Guest Editors: H. Gokcekus, D. Orhon, V. Nourani, S. Sozen

Water is still one of the most significant problems in the world and especially in the Mediterranean region. In this thematic issue, all possible approaches and suggestions aimed at finding solutions to overcome water scarcity, better alternatives to treat wastewater and ensuring access to clean water for all communities are valuable subjects that will be included for directing authorities to take a step further towards overcoming water-related problems for everyone around the world.

The issue will provide the opportunity to connect with experts on water treatment techniques, eco-hydrology, hydro informatics, emerging pollutants in water resources and water management from all over the world. The manuscripts will include information on innovative approaches from leading