The development of new technology for use in environmental research provides us with numerous sophisticated tools such as remote sensing and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). However, throughout recent decades there have been debates regarding the appropriate use of these tools. The question still remains as to whether they can strengthen environmental research, or whether perhaps more conventional methods are better suited? This paper focuses on the use of remote sensing in environmental applications, such as strategic or regional environmental assessments. By providing a case study from Sri Lanka, it is shown how the benefits from a visual interpretation of satellite imagery can be combined with a digital supervised classification in a hybrid approach. The use of these techniques in environmental assessments is further discussed in the light of 'best practicable science' as proposed by the International Association of Impact Assessment (IAIA). The intention is not to discourage the use of digital techniques, but to discuss how they should be utilized to their fullest extent. The approach argued for here provides data of a more general and possibly integrative nature. It may therefore be well suited for the early screening and scoping stages of environmental assessments at a landscape level.
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