Apr 23, 2019

Satellites are helping track invasive species on Earth

A satellite photo showing the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos. Photo: Satellite image via Maxar Technologies

Satellite data is helping to track invasive species of plants threatening the natural wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.

Details: Densely forested lands are sometimes difficult to map from the ground but photos taken from orbit — provided by Maxar satellites to the Charles Darwin Foundation — are pointing researchers to the places where invasive flora are thriving.

  • The satellite photos mapped 15 square miles on the island of Floreana and 55 square miles on Santa Cruz.

"We need to know this in order to know where to take action, and how to most effectively take action to manage these invasive species," Carolina Carrión, geospatial specialist at the Charles Darwin Foundation, tells Axios.

  • One of those plants, the blackberry, can be found in small or large patches over a widespread area, Carrión said. Extremely detailed imagery can help scientists hunt for and remove these and other invasive plants.

The partnership involved machine learning to quickly map and detect invasive species, even in mixed forests.

  • Researchers also flew drones above the forest canopy to map species and prove the technology needed to track invasive ones using satellites.

What's next: The imagery could be helpful in telling researchers how quickly one invasive species is taking root over a period of time and inform long-term conservation efforts.

Go deeper

Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,453,784 — Total deaths: 345,886 — Total recoveries — 2,191,310Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,651,254 — Total deaths: 97,850 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Top Boris Johnson aide defends himself after allegations he broke U.K. lockdown — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.