News & Updates

Saturday, 22. February 2014
Valuing ecosystem services using Earth Observation

13 February 2014, Bonn (Germany)

Ecoserve is a project to promote Earth Observation (EO) – a method of gathering information about the planet’s physical, chemical and biological systems using remote sensing technology – and to explore its use for ecosystem service valuation and monitoring. It is funded by the European Space Agency (ESA). On 13 February 2014, Ecoserve presented its results to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) at a meeting in Bonn, Germany.

The presentation reported on four trials of applying the EO approach to ecosystem valuation, Three focused on terrestrial ecosystems in Indonesia, Vietnam in ForCES pilot sites and Peru, and the fourth on marine ecosystems in Mexico and Australia.

The EO – coupled with global datasets on tree heights, climatic conditions and ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and water purification – was used to model ecosystem services in the terrestrial trial sites. This combination improved the accuracy and resolution of land cover maps that in turn helped to deliver more comprehensive ecosystem service valuation. A software package called Invest, developed by the Natural Capital project at Stanford University, was used to assess the value of different ecosystem services.

The utility of the land cover maps and geo information generated by the project was discussed by participants at the Bonn meeting, who included representatives from the ESA, from Metria, Geoville and Argans, the consultants, and Invest software users from FSC and WWF. They also discussed the current benefits and limitations of EO data for ecosystem service valuation.

In the future, it is likely that the cost of EO services will decrease at same time as the availability of data increases. Sentinel data that will become available in 2015 will make it possible to use EO to model and value ecosystem services in large geographical areas at a more reasonable cost, which will be particularly important for large FSC certified operations. However, there is still a need for field inventory data to give important input on variables like biomass in different regions, and on aspects of biodiversity that cannot be perceived from space.

The project has successfully demonstrated the significance of EO for ecosystem services valuation and the importance of local expert involvement. Using the software Invest for modelling should also be considered by local experts, stakeholders and policymakers to achieve the best results.