Remote sensing tech to help frankincense tree research in Oman
March 6, 2018 | 10:46 PM
by Times News Service
If research can identify why the density of frankincense trees is falling, corrective measures can be taken. Photo-ONA

Muscat: A new collaborative research seeks to solve the problem of accessibility, when it comes to studying frankincense trees.

Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and University of Nizwa (UON) have come together to use the geographic information system (GIS) and remote sensing techniques to study frankincense trees in select areas of the Dhofar region.

It is difficult to study frankincense trees because they are widespread and many of them are located at a high altitude on mountains and hills.

By using GIS and remote sensing techniques, however, one can overcome this problem of inaccessibility by using imagery to study the species.

Remote sensing is a method of collecting and analysing data to get information about an object without you or your instruments being in direct contact with the object of your study. In this case, satellite images will mostly be used to make observations.

Work on the study titled “Mapping and change detection study of frankincense tree (Boswellia sacra) using GIS database and remote sensing techniques in Huluf, Wadi Sahnut, and Wadi Dawkah in Dhofar” is likely to get underway within this month.

Dr Yaseen Al Mullah, director of remote sensing at SQU, is involved in this research. He said the remote sensing would primarily be an exercise in “change detection”.

“It is a very practical technology. We will be able to monitor frankincense trees with satellite images and study their density and how overgrazing and climate change are affecting these trees,” he said.

Al Mullah added that if researchers figured out the reason behind the reduction in the density of frankincense trees, they might be able to apply corrective measures and help increase the species’ number and density. “This may even help us increase the production of frankincense in future,” he remarked.

The SQU professor said they will use the images to make key observations.

“We will mark these trees. Note their size, distribution, and the like and use this information to conserve these frankincense trees,” he added.

Al Mullah said that studying frankincense trees was fascinating because each tree was unique and identifiable. “We call it a spectral signature. If one were to study the image of a tree, one would find that each tree’s appearance is unique. So, this is how we map and identify these trees,” he added.

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