Aim: An overarching goal of GEO BON is to promote more efficient ways of sharing, producing and communicating biodiversity observations and analyses at a global scale. Under the aegis of GEOBON (Task Force Remote Sensing for EBVs, WGs Ecosystem Structure, Ecosystem Function and Species Traits), ITC is pleased to host a workshop of approximately 25 recognized international experts in Earth Observation (EO) and Biodiversity with the goal to consolidate the list of prioritized Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) that can be monitored by EO. In addition, the workshop will define the prerequisites and work-flow processes to anchor the prioritized list of EBVs from EO, with GEO BON as a hub, in an institutional setting comprising CBD/IPBES/CEOS (figure 1). Finally, the workshop will explore how private-public partnerships may be integrated into global earth observation networks for biodiversity.

Background: Long-term monitoring of changes in biodiversity is a prerequisite for sustainable management (Pereira et al. 2006). The concept of EBVs aims to define those measurements which are key to track the state of and change in biological diversity at all spatial scales, including information such as changes in plant and animal community composition, ecosystem structure and function (Pereira et al. 2013). Traditionally ecologists have relied on field surveys that are laborious, cover relatively small extents and short temporal periods to track biodiversity changes (Palmer et al. 2002, Collen et al. 2013). Effective monitoring of rapidly changing ecosystems requires efficient and operational methods that cover extensive areas at a fine spatial resolution and with a high temporal frequency (Palmer et al. 2002). In this respect, remote sensing imageries , which are obtained from airborne and space-borne sensors, provides key inputs to biodiversity assessment and monitoring, in conjunction with in situ data.

It is indeed possible to directly measure and monitor some EBVs using remote sensing (Skidmore et al. 2015). For example, biomass and leaf area index as well as productivity and foliar chemistry can be directly estimated from remotely sensed measurements. In addition, Land Surface Phenology (LSP) can be derived from time series of satellite imagery. More complex EBVs can be generated, for instance from the spectral variation hypothesis that proposes the variability in satellite remote sensing reflectance is a proxy for environmental heterogeneity or ecosystem function and thus an indicator of biodiversity (Oindo and Skidmore 2002, Palmer et al. 2002, Rocchini 2007, Gillespie et al. 2008, Rocchini et al. 2010). EBVs of structure and function can also be indirectly mapped (Mucher 2013).

However, there is still currently no established prioritized set of EBVs measurable using remote sensing information, despite the urgent appeal by scientists to agree on a list of biodiversity metrics to be tracked from space (Skidmore et al. 2015). Such a list of EBVs is highly relevant for space agencies and funding agencies to ensure continuity of global satellite observations at relevant spatio-temporal scales and especially in data limited ecosystems.

Community support for a prioritized list ensures the legitimacy of the EBV approach though connection to scientific research (e.g. inputs to global models) as well as to societal applications (e.g. through improved management of natural resources, sustainability indicators for industry, as well as reporting by CBD and IPBES). In other words, the adoption of a prioritized list of EBVs will drive the development of global EBV products for biodiversity monitoring and inform global targets for reducing biodiversity loss. The space agencies, their Committee on Earth Observations Satellites (CEOS), perceive EBVs as a tool to prioritise the utilisation of space assets for biodiversity monitoring and reporting. And private companies see business opportunities in biodiversity monitoring. Funding agencies of research and operational production of EBVs, as well as private companies reporting on the sustainability of their products and services as well as ‘lean and green’ supply chains, require a definitive prioritised list of EBVs. A prioritized and endorsed list of EBVs retrievable from EO will drive global standards for operational EBV products. Therefore, it is high time for experts to set a well-defined criteria and prioritize (rank) remote sensing EBVs to advance global and regional biodiversity assessment and monitoring.

The participants have an international track record in theoretical and practical use of remote sensing applicable for modelling and monitoring of natural resources at local, regional and/or continental scales, as well as knowledge of biodiversity and/or ecological services.

This workshop will contribute to the development of EBVs under the GEOBON flagship.

Support: GlobDiversity (ESA) & NextGEOSS (H2020); ITC

Organized: under banners of GEO, GEOBON, ESA (GlobDiversity), EC H2020 (NextGEOSS), CEOS, IPBES, CBD, UT/ITC

Date: September 7 & 8, 2017

Location: ITC, Enschede, the Netherlands

Science committee: A Skidmore, M Schaepman, M Paganini, S Mucher, A Leidner, N Coops, M Hansen, D Kissling

Outcomes: Deliverables will include a consolidated list of prioritized EBVs that can be monitored by EO. From the workshop, a special issue on prioritizing EBVs and a policy article in a high impact scientific journal will highlight how EO can prioritize the monitoring and assessment of EBVs. An information (policy) note will be prepared for the CBD SBSSTA to acknowledge that the prioritized EBVs can be retrieved from EO. CEOS and the space agencies will

Confirmed attendees: A. Skidmore, M. Schaepman, S. Mucher, M. Paganini, A. Leidner, N. Coops, W. Turner, W. Jetz, M. Hansen, F. Camacho, D. Alcaraz, J. van Loon, , B. Somers, R. van Kerchoeve, A. Lausch, U. Heiden, D. Kissling, P. Vihervaara, A. Belward, M. Wegmann, N. Fernandez, S. Briggs, J.C. Vis, M. Herold, H. Feilhauer, R. Grimm, I. Palumbo, J. Vandenabeele, P. Blonda, D. Holbern, F. Muller-Karger, R. de Jong, C. Giordino, C. Roosli, J. Ross, P. Leitao, R. Hoft, D Mollicone, S Groom