Based on a series of NASA funded workshops to increase and improve the use of Earth observations in ecosystem services assessments, we evaluated why most there’s so little use of EO for ES given that everyone agrees it’s a good idea. We published what we learned about challenges and opportunities in this space in the journal Science of the Total Environment. The paper is available open access, and the abstract is below.
The benefits nature provides to people, called ecosystem services, are increasingly recognized and accounted for in assessments of infrastructure development, agricultural management, conservation prioritization, and sustainable sourcing. These assessments are often limited by data, however, a gap with tremendous potential to be filled through Earth observations (EO), which produce a variety of data across spatial and temporal extents and resolutions. Despite widespread recognition of this potential, in practice few ecosystem service studies use EO. Here, we identify challenges and opportunities to using EO in ecosystem service modeling and assessment. Some challenges are technical, related to data awareness, processing, and access. These challenges require systematic investment in model platforms and data management. Other challenges are more conceptual but still systemic; they are byproducts of the structure of existing ecosystem service models and addressing them requires scientific investment in solutions and tools applicable to a wide range of models and approaches. We also highlight new ways in which EO can be leveraged for ecosystem service assessments, identifying promising new areas of research. More widespread use of EO for ecosystem service assessment will only be achieved if all of these types of challenges are addressed. This will require non-traditional funding and partnering opportunities from private and public agencies to promote data exploration, sharing, and archiving. Investing in this integration will be reflected in better and more accurate ecosystem service assessments worldwide.