Image: Zambezi River, Zambia from orbit

January 31, 2014, European Space Agency
Credit: ESA

This image from Envisat's radar shows the Zambezi River's floodplain in western Zambia.

The city of Mongu appears as a cluster of white on the right side of the image. It is about 15 km from the river's main channel – which appears light green, snaking down the left side of the image – but during the wet season, the waters rise right up to the edge of the town.

This image is a compilation of three acquisitions from Envisat's radar. Each acquisition is assigned a colour, and when combined show changes between the acquisitions.

The individual images were acquired on 1 March, during the wet season, 27 September and 26 December, when water levels were low, all during 2011. Combined, the psychedelic array of colours reveal how drastically the floodplain changes between seasons.

As the second largest wetland in Zambia, the Zambezi is a major spawning ground for fish. With about 80 different fish species, it serves as a source of livelihood to the local people, along with harvesting of other wetland resources like reeds and sedges for handicraft, and rice cultivation.

But this area is threatened by unsustainable fishing, animal poaching and the dredging of canals.

The Zambezi floodplains is just one of the over 2000 sites worldwide considered to be wetlands of international importance by the Ramsar Convention – an intergovernmental treaty for the sustainable use of wetlands. World Wetlands Day is observed on 2 February, the anniversary of the signing of the Convention.

ESA assists the Ramsar Convention through the GlobWetland project and the TIGER initiative 'Looking After Water in Africa', which provide satellite data to be used to monitor these precious resources.

Explore further: Image: Boca do Acre, Brazil from orbit

Related Stories

Value of satellites recognized for conserving wetlands

November 14, 2008

Wetlands contribute to our lives in remarkable ways by providing food and water, controlling floods, protecting against storms and supporting biodiversity, yet they are experiencing loss and degradation on a massive scale.

Connection between health of wetlands and humans in focus

February 1, 2008

Despite the vital role wetlands play in society, they remain among the most threatened ecosystems on Earth. To emphasise the direct and positive effects of healthy wetlands for humans, the theme of this year’s World Wetlands ...

Bulgaria, Romania create protected wetlands for birds

April 16, 2013

Bulgaria and Romania on Tuesday signed a deal to set up three wetland areas along their joint 470-kilometre (290-mile) Danube border, protecting pelicans, herons, pygmy cormorants and other birds, the environment ministry ...

Losing wetlands to grow crops

March 24, 2013

Getting enough to eat is a basic human need – but at what cost to the environment? Research published in BioMed Central's journal Agriculture & Food Security demonstrates that as their crops on higher ground fail due to ...

Recommended for you


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.