Biodiversity is defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity as “the variability among living organisms”, the ecological complexes in which they naturally occur, and the ways in which they interact with each other and with the physical environment. It is a fundamentally multidimensional concept that can be measured in terms of different components (genetic, population/species, and community/ecosystem); each of these components has compositional, structural and functional attributes which can be considered the three-dimensions of biodiversity. Organism-based metrics that count the number of distinct species in a defined area (species richness) are the most common proxies used in biodiversity assessments.

About

Leads

Nathalie Pettorelli
Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
Emily Nicholson
Deakin University

Key Objectives

  • Identify research opportunities supporting the identification/implementation of essential biodiversity variables relevant to the monitoring of ecosystem functions
  • Derive/identify potential datasets supporting the implementation of essential biodiversity variables relevant to the monitoring of ecosystem functions
  • Articulate and strengthen the links existing between essential biodiversity variables relevant to the monitoring of ecosystem functions and global indicators
  • Provide guidance to national biodiversity networks in terms of in situ monitoring of essential biodiversity variables relevant to the monitoring of ecosystem functions
Activities
Activity 1. Define ecosystem function and review monitoring options for each known function

Lead: Nathalie Pettorelli
Rationale: If we want to identify EBVs that can be relevant to ecosystem function monitoring, we need a clear definition of what ecosystem functions are, and how these are currently being monitored
Timeline:
Oct 16 – Feb 17: review of available information
March-April 17: workshop to discuss findings and plan required research
April 17: Scientific Article submission
May 17: Ecosystem Function EBVs monitoring Guidelines published
Resources needed: Funding to support the organization of a workshop (hopefully granted by GEO BON)

Activity 2. Improve our understanding of the links between biodiversity, functional traits, and ecosystem functioning

Lead: Simon Brandl & Jon Lefcheck
Rationale: Species-based information could be highly relevant to ecosystem function monitoring, but for now little is being understood as to how species richness functional traits and ecosystem functions correlate
Timeline:
Oct 16 – Feb 17: identification of potential project partners
March 17: Perspective paper submitted
Summer 17: Workshop to identify next steps and structure potential collaborations
Resources needed: funding to support a workshop

Activity 3. Integrating species-interactions into ecosystem functioning monitoring

Lead: Darren Evans
Rationale: Trophic interactions could be highly relevant to ecosystem function monitoring, but the feasibility of monitoring particular ecosystem functions at large scales using information on species assemblages and trophic interactions has never been explored
Timeline:
Oct 16 – Feb 17: identification of potential project partners
Spring/summer 17: workshop to discuss first steps
Resources needed: Funding to support the organization of a workshop (hopefully through the Institute for Sustainability in Newcastle)

Activity 4. Identification of Essential Ecosystem Functional variables

Lead: Pedro Leitao, Nestor Fernandez, Miguel Fernandez, Domingo Alcaraz Segura
Rationale: This activity aims to explore opportunities for current and future satellite remote sensing data to inform the monitoring of ecosystem functions
Timeline:
Dec 12-16th 2016: Organisation of a session in the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting entitled “Advancing understanding of ecosystem structure and function through remote sensing”
Spring 17: workshop in Berlin to review current status and define ways forward
Resources needed: Funding to support the organization of this workshop (update dec.2016 – proposal funded)

Activity 5. Temporal resolution, time lag and effective monitoring of ecosystem functions

Lead: Jeremy Kerr
Rationale: This activity aims to explore the role of temporal resolution in shaping EBV sensitivity to global environmental change, researching whether specific ecosystem functions are best monitored at specific resolution. The activity will also explore whether available EBV metrics predict ecosystem function differences in near-real time, are whether time lags (which may be specific to each function) need to be considered.
Timeline:
Oct 16 – Feb 17: identification of potential project partners
Summer 17: Scientific Article submission
Resources needed: Undetermined at this stage

Activity 6. Characterize ecosystem Function response to extreme climatic events

Lead: Franziska Schrodt & Shovonlal Roy
Rationale: Higher frequency and length of extreme events expected in the near future can severely alter ecosystem structure and function, but so far we lack suitable approached to quantify likely changes in a comprehensive manner. Multiple ecological factors and environmental stressors influence ecosystem function across the land and oceanic ecosystems. While the individual effects of these factors are often studied, little is known about their combined effects on ecosystem function. Identifying and understanding the controlling factors and stressors for ecosystem function would be a precursor to understanding and predicting how the interlinks would respond in a gradually changing environment and extreme events. Moreover, understanding these across the land and aquatic ecosystems would be very useful, and one can think of investigating a common framework to study these changes
Timeline:
Oct 16 – Feb 17: identification of potential project partners
Spring 17: Apply for external funding (BBSRC and COST)
Summer 17: Workshop to discuss approach and write paper
Autumn 17: Completing paper and discuss further steps
Resources needed: Contribution toward workshop funding

Activity 7. Ecosystem function variables as predictors of species distributions and dynamics

Lead: João Honrado, Domingo Alcaraz-Segura, Javier Cabello
Rationale: The application of satellite remote-sensing variables related to ecosystem functional attributes (EFAs) in models of habitat suitability and biodiversity dynamics is still in its early stages. Still, those variables hold high potential as predictors of species distributions and responses to global change due to their global coverage and temporal resolution (within and across years). The potential added value of EFA-fed models would be most relevant for rare and/or threatened species, and to support monitoring schemes targeting international reporting obligations. This workshop will review the opportunities and challenges of fostering the application of EFA-based models in effective prediction of species trends, status and future dynamics, emphasizing the reporting obligations of EU members states on the Habitats Directive.
Timeline:
Early 2017: Identification of additional partners/participants
Late 2017: workshop.
Resources needed: Funding to support the organization of the workshop

Activity 8. Ecosystem function variables to monitor conservation status of habitats and protected areas

Lead: Javier Cabello, Domingo Alcaraz-Segura, Joao Honrado, Francisco J. Bonet
Rationale: The assessment of conservation status of habitats and protected areas must include aspects related to the composition, structure and functions of biodiversity. While the two first components have received much efforts, yet the ecosystem functioning dimension is scarcely evaluated. Satellite remote-sensing variables related to ecosystem functional attributes (SRS-EFAs) reveal as particularly useful to do so, since they are cost-effective, and provide repeated and synoptic information about the matter and energy exchanges between the biota and atmosphere. This initiative will review the opportunities and challenges of fostering the application of SRS-EFAs for the effective evaluation of the conservation status of habitats and protected areas, emphasizing the reporting obligations of EU member states on the Habitats Directive.
Timeline:
Early 2017 – kick-off workshop at University of Almería, Spain; identification of additional partners/participants Feb-Jul 2017
Late 2017 – second workshop.
Resources available: Funding for the Jan 2017 workshop
Resources needed: Funding to support the organization of the Late 2017 workshop

Activity 9. Essential variables to characterize the functioning of social-ecological systems

Lead: Domingo Alcaraz-Segura, Javier Cabello, José Paruelo, João Honrado
Rationale: The functional characteristics of natural and human-influenced systems include ecological, physical, and sociological processes, and their interactions. An understanding of the diversity and distribution of ecosystem functionality will be crucial for both basic and applied aspects of Earth system sciences. Satellite remote sensing provides an important tool for evaluating ecosystem functions, such as energy, carbon and water exchanges, and may also be applicable for assessing sociological processes (e.g. land use dynamics, energy consumption). In this manner, Ecosystem Functional Types (EFTs) and Sociological EFTs (SEFTs) can be developed to represent areas of the land surface that show coordinated natural and human responses to environmental drivers.
Timeline:
Jan/Feb 2017 – kick-off workshop in Buenos Aires, identification of additional partners/participants and Special issue proposal
Feb 2017
Late 2017 – workshop
Resources available: Funding for the Jan 2017 workshop
Resources needed: Funding to support the organization of the Late 2017 workshop

Activity 10. Definition of an EO monitoring protocol for dryland area

Lead: Marion Stellmes, Ruth Sonnenschein
Rationale: Dryland areas are especially sensitive to degradation processes and due to the often sparse vegetation, changes in biodiversity are often linked to subtle changes in remote sensing signals. EO of EBVs has to take this into account when deriving EBVs such as LAI, faPAR, phenology, structural parameters,fire etc. Moreover, these factors run simultaneously and interact which requires a combined analysis including climatic variations.
The synergistic use of different remote sensing acquisitions from various domains, i.e. temporal vs. spatial and active vs. passive systems, will provide essential complementary information for these ecosystems. Multi-spectral data can for instance be employed to assess modifications of biomass in rangelands but they are not capable to provide structural vegetation information which is important to differentiate greening caused by improved rangeland management from undesired shrub encroachment where latter could be assessed incorporating radar and LiDAR data.
Timeline:
Jan/Feb 2017: identification of further project partners
Resources needed: Workshop funding

Activity 11. Towards a standardised baseline dataset for remote monitoring of ecosystem functions

Leads: Nick Murray, David Keith
Rationale: The data, tools, computing resources and methods needed for using earth observation data to monitor ecosystem function remain largely inaccessible to a large proportion of the ecological research community. A free, standardised data time-series to represent key ecosystem processes will be useful for mapping, modelling and monitoring ecosystem functions for a variety of ecosystem types. This project will collate existing global data sources that relate to key abiotic and biotic ecosystem processes (such as cloud cover or surface water dynamics) into a single, user friendly resource for ecosystem scientists. It links directly to other activities that are focused on identifying EBVs for ecosystem function monitoring, developing broad conceptual ecosystem models and identifying at-risk ecosystems.
Timeline:
mid-2017: online planning of database development, gather interested parties
Late 2017: process existing data into standardised dataset
Resources needed: funding for short-term research assistant

Activity 12. Complementary metrics for tracking change in regional ecosystem function related to fire

Lead: Ayesha Tulloch
Rationale: Fire is a major driver of ecosystem disturbance and can both improve and reduce function depending on how far the current regime diverges from historical conditions. Different components related to fire history include area burnt, fire patchiness, intensity and frequency. Variation in these components lead to different outcomes for ecosystem function. We need a set of multiple complementary ecosystem condition metrics to effectively monitor change over time. This project will test existing and new metrics across a range of ecosystems with different levels of disturbance.
Timeline:
Jan-Feb 17: identification of potential project partners and case study systems
Feb 17-Feb 18 (or longer): analysis of datasets and metrics
Resources needed: Funding to support a PhD student or postdoc to analyse available remote-sensing datasets

Activity 13. Correlations between components of biodiversity across scales

Lead: Phoebe Zarnetske/Sydne Record/Kyla Dahlin
Rationale: “Biodiversity” is a multifaceted concept. Understanding how the relationship between ecosystem functioning and other components of biodiversity scales is important for improving model predictions of changes in ecosystem function. We solicited applications for a 1.5-yr NASA Biodiversity Working Group (“Connecting biodiversity, geodiversity, and remote sensing across scales”) beginning in 2017, and received > 80 applicants, so we know there is sufficient interest in follow-up working group activities.
Timeline:
Oct 16 – Feb 17: planning stages and working group first meeting
August 6-11, 2017: (1) a special evening session at Ecological Society of America (ESA) Meeting (Portland, OR, USA); (2) an ESA Ignite session on Biodiversity & Remote Sensing
Resources needed: Funding to support a follow-up working group beginning 2018 that would focus on connecting biodiversity-geodiversity scaling relationships with ecosystem function.

Activity 14. Identification and reduction of uncertainties in the estimation of future ecosystem functions

Lead: Ghada El Serafy, Antonello Provenzale
Rationale: Identifying, quantifying and reducing uncertainty is a crucial issue in any prediction system or modelling application. The ramifications of uncertainty yield significant impacts on meteorological forecast ensembles, ecosystem response estimates, and reach as far as future social-economic scenarios. Uncertainty is relevant to the concept of environmental status reporting; it is an inherent property of system observation and furthermore, has far reaching implications when considering a system’s future status. Along these lines, acknowledgement and the subsequent management of uncertainty can significantly influence the optimal decision pathway of managerial officials.
Timeline:
Oct 16 – Feb 17: identification of potential project partners
Spring 17: workshop in The Netherlands to evaluate common knowledge and possible proposal chances (Interreg / H2020)
Resources needed: internal support the organization of this workshop (perhaps joint with other projects or GEO initiatives)

Activity 15. Monitoring of disturbances of ecosystem functions

Lead: Michael Foerster and Fabian Fassnacht
Rationale: The disturbance of ecosystems by fire, calamities, drought, or storms is often inherent for the functioning of an intact natural system. However, human influences can change existing disturbance regimes or even introduce new disturbance systems that affect ecosystems to a far stronger degree than the ecosystem is capable of balancing out. This can cause consequences such as hardly reversible land degradation or the spread of invasive species. The project/workshop aims at detecting different types of ecosystem disturbances using long-term time-series as well as recent impacts.
Timeline:
Oct 16 – Feb 17: identification of potential project partners
Spring 17: workshop in Berlin to evaluate possible proposal chances (COST / Interreg / H2020) – possibly in cooperation with activity 5.4. (Pedro Leitao)
Resources needed: internal support the organization of this workshop (perhaps joint with HU Berlin)

Activity 16. The impacts of phenological shifts on ecosystem functioning

Lead: Kate S. He, Jeffery Masek
Rationale: Climate–induced phenological shifts have been observed in multiple ecosystems over the past decades. However, the impacts of phenological shifts on ecosystem structure and function have not been well studied. The aim of this project is to using long-term satellite time series (reflectance and tempterature) which record inter- and intra-annual changes indicative of such shifts in habitats to determine consequential changes in ecosystem functioning.
Timeline:
Spring 17: workshop in TBA to review current status and define ways forward
Resources needed: Funding to support the organization of this workshop (possibility of seeking grants from NASA)

Activity 17. Promoting restoration of global ecosystems though earth observation - reversing the trends

Lead: Richard Lucas
Rationale: Over past decades, earth observation data have been effective in reporting losses and degradation of ecosystems but have rarely been exploited to facilitate and plan their effective restoration. This project proposes a new approach that seeks to demonstrate how EO-derived information on ecosystem functions can be used (e.g., by local populations, governments and scientists) to facilitate restoration of some of the world’s remaining ecosystems and related services. A component will focus on responding to climate change and particularly extreme events and processes.
Timeline:
Autumn 17: Strategic development of plan within GEOBON in preparation for a workshop on finalising an effective and achievable strategy for EO-derived ecosystem restoration and conservation.
Resources needed: Funding for workshop, initial strategy development and funding bids, and web-based dissemination.

Activity 18. Conceptual models to link ecosystem function and remotely sensed data

Lead: Emily Nicholson
Rationale: Conceptual models of ecosystem dynamics support ecosystem risk assessment (including the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems), the identification of key variables and indicators for measuring change, and diagnosing threats to ecosystem persistence and management strategies for ecosystem functioning. A range of conceptual models have been proposed for different ecosystem types around the world, but tend to be inconsistent in their purpose and formulation. In this project we seek to develop a library of conceptual models for broad ecosystem types, which can be adapted for specific ecosystems or situations, to support risk assessment and threat diagnosis. In particular, we seek to link key ecological processes with indicators for measuring change in these processes, with a focus on identifying remotely sensed data that can contribute to measuring change in ecosystem function. The results will facilitate the use of remotely sensed data in ecosystem risk assessment and management around the world, at global, national and local scales.
Timeline:
Workshop for grant-writing and conceptual framing: August-Nov 2017
Resources needed: Workshop for 3 days to frame, plan and write a grant proposal for Leverhulme Trust and other granting bodies

Data Products

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Documents & Publications
2017

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2016

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Members

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Resources

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