PRUNING – Mapping open burning of agricultural residues from Earth Observations and modelling of air quality impacts


Carla Maria dos Santos Gama da Silva


Projetos de Investigação Científica e Desenvolvimento Tecnológico - 2022


01/03/2023 - 31/08/2024

Funding for CESAM

49994,47 €

Total Funding

49994,47 €

Funding Entity

FCT (2022.01045.PTDC)

Proponent Institution

Universidade de Aveiro



The field burning of pruning material and other agricultural residues is an important source of atmospheric pollutants, with a strong impact on air quality, in several regions of the world. In Portugal, burning material of pruning permanent crops such as vineyards, olive groves and other orchards, is a common practice that takes place usually from October to April. The estimate of atmospheric emissions resulting from the open burning of agricultural residues is commonly done based on activity data and combustion factors. However, this methodology does not identify when and where those field burns occur, posing thus challenges to the assessment of the impact these emissions have on air quality. The main aim of PRUNING is to explore Earth Observation Satellites as a source of data for spatial and temporal mapping of those events, allowing the improvement of emission estimates, and thus the assessment of atmospheric pollution impact caused by these practices. To accomplish PRUNING’s objectives, data and products available from remote sensing will be explored, in order to select or develop products that answers PRUNING’s needs. A package of code routines will be developed, tested, validated and made available to the scientific community. Based on this exploratory methodology, emissions from biomass residues burning will be estimated, and the impact these emissions cause on air quality will be assessed using chemical transport models. Two case studies of major open burning of agricultural residues will be the starting point for the development of PRUNING exploratory methodology: Baixo Mondego (October 2007) and Alto Minho (November 2017), both in Portugal. Subsequently, it is intended to evaluate applicability to minor events on all Portuguese territory. Machine learning techniques will be then used to define the probability of occurrence of these open burns, based on a set of proxies (meteorological data, land-use, natural cycles, and calendar year information). The project intends to generate a methodology for mapping and quantification of open burning of agricultural or forest residues based on the development of an open-source tool (software). With the proposed research plan, the scientific basis for assessing the impact of open burn on air quality, at the local and regional scales, will be improved. PRUNING major results will be carefully disseminated, exploited, and communicated to the scientific community and the general public. The information on air quality impacts due to field burning of pruning material and other agricultural residues will help policymakers and citizens to take informed decisions, while promoting knowledge sharing and education for both stakeholders and researchers. PRUNING project team is comprised of high-skilled researchers with a balanced set of skills and experience in the fields of atmospheric sciences and data processing, including satellite data, emission estimates, air quality management, meteorology and air pollution modelling, and machine-learning algorithms. The wide knowledge, experience and motivation of this scientific team will be crucial for the accomplishment and success of the project.

CESAM members in the project

Maria Alexandra Castelo Sobral Monteiro

Investigadora Auxiliar com Habilitação

Diogo José Sousa Lopes

Investigador Doutorado

Eduardo Marques e Silva Rocha de Oliveira

Estagiário de Pós-Doutoramento