It is known that plants are an essential element in the continuation of life on earth, as they represent the main source of food not only for humans, but for all creatures directly or indirectly, and contribute to the absorption of carbon dioxide and oxygen production through photosynthesis. Plants also maintain soil moisture by storing water in their roots and stems and contribute significantly to maintaining ecological balance and food security and protecting the planet from the threat of soil encroachment and desertification. Trees and plants of various sizes and types provide huge economic and investment opportunities in several sectors, the most important of which are food and medicines, in addition to selling fruits and crops, there are financial returns for farmers to labor in several areas other than agriculture such as logistics, storage, wholesale and retail sales, environmental waste management, and many other areas that support the idea of consuming environmentally friendly products.

Therefore, there is a need to classify plants and trees as they play a very important role in environmental sustainability, development and maintaining food security. By classifying plants and trees, we can know many important factors such as the types and health of plants and trees, the health of crops, their locations, and the estimate of crop production for each plant or tree and others. But during the classification, the surrounding land must also be studied if it is green, so the green area and the types of soil whether it is suitable for agriculture or not and the locations of water for irrigation and others must be studied. It is possible to collaborate between experts in the sectors of space science, remote sensing, agriculture and artificial intelligence to produce a national botanical atlas, classifying all plants and trees with the factors mentioned above.

The stages of classification of plants and trees can be applied through four basic stages:

  1. The use of electromagnetic spectrometers to find the spectral fingerprint of both plants and trees.
  2. Using high-resolution satellite images and data and the feature of multi-spectral bands to monitor plants and trees.
  3. Creating an artificial intelligence model in facilitating the process of identification and measurement from satellite images instead of semi-automated methods.
  4. Benefiting from the presentation of classification results in drawing geographical and graphic elements using geographic information systems at high speed, which helps to understand the patterns, relationships and geographical context of all plants and trees and will be an important tool in improving management and decision-making.

The first level: the use of an electromagnetic meter “spectral fingerprint”

The spectral fingerprint is issued when photographing objects with special types of sensors to reveal some of their features that cannot be seen with the naked eye, because all things on the surface of the earth have their own chemical and physical composition, in other words that everything has a special spectral fingerprint. Remote sensors operate in a system similar to the human eye, but the human eye is sensitive only to visible rays in the electromagnetic spectrum, while remote sensors are sensitive to both visible and invisible waves. Because the color of objects and phenomena that man sees in nature depends on the amount of visible light reflected from them. Our eyes can only see the visible part. But remote sensors can capture spectral band and other forms of the electromagnetic spectrum and near-infrared radiation invisible to the human eye. Using remote sensing, for example, we can estimate the amount of chlorophyll present in a plant.

Spectrophotometers come in many forms, covering different wavelength bands. These types of techniques have many advantages that make them superior to traditional techniques, for example, the shape of the reflection spectrum varies according to the type of vegetation, there are hundreds of plants that exist on the territory of the Kingdom of Bahrain and each of these plants has its own chemical composition that makes it different from each other. For example, samples can be collected from Bahraini plants such as tomato trees, apples, leafy plants and many others, each characterized by individual reflection spectra, and electromagnetic spectrometers can be used to be analyzed, their spectral footprint can be found and the data can be stored for later use.

The second level: “the use of satellite images and data”

The spectral fingerprint data of plants is taken and integrated into the remote sensing software and the definition of each plant variety. Through satellite images that are periodically captured in multiple spectra (near-infrared rays invisible to the human eye – visible – and other forms of the electromagnetic spectrum), the satellite image is analyzed by satellite data analysts to extract all plant varieties and compare them with plant spectral fingerprint data to monitor and classify all plants planted on the Kingdom’s lands, their locations, health, size, and many more simultaneously. By studying “Land Use / Land Cover”, a suitability study can be done to link the places and health of plants and trees to the green area, soil types whether they are suitable for agriculture or not, and where water is located.

The Third Level: “Creating an Artificial Intelligence Model”

Instead of space data analysts using semi-automated methods to analyze and classify plants, it is possible to create an artificial intelligence model to monitor and identify plants through their spectral fingerprint from satellite images, and this will contribute to facilitating monitoring and classification tasks in terms of reducing financial resources, administrative and reduce manpower consumption and raise the accuracy of results.

The Fourth level: “Geographic Information Systems”

GIS has special capabilities to link the visual aspects of the various results extracted from the database analysis, and allows the spatial data analyst to display, understand, interpret and visualize data in several ways to reveal relationships, patterns and trends in the form of reports, maps or graphs, making it easier for the decision-maker to take the necessary decisions in terms of afforestation and benefit from crops or even the definition of the Bahraini plant identity Preserving them and the environment in general, and for the stability of food security, among others.

Therefore, the use of space science is very necessary to classify Bahraini plants by spectral fingerprint and document them in an accurate national botanical atlas capable of providing information to the concerned authorities and supporting their efforts in achieving the national strategy for the agricultural sector.

* By Muneera AlMalki – Senior Mechanical Engineer – National Space Science Agency