Documenting in essential variables for biodiversity by remote sensing

Global biodiversity is currently going through a major crisis that is degrading ecosystems, their functions and therefore the services they provide to humanity. Its preservation has thus become a central challenge for sustainable development at national, European (Natura 2000 and the Habitats Directive) and international level (Convention on Biological Diversity, 2011-2020). The increasing availability of open access satellite images such as new modes of data analysis can help to achieve biodiversity conservation objectives by strengthening monitoring processes at various spatial and temporal scales. Open and free access to data thus has a direct impact on our ability to measure the impact of anthropogenic pressures, providing new opportunities to predict the consequences of changes at different scales and make mitigation measures more effective.

Essential variables for biodiversity

The concept of essential biodiversity variables (EBVs) is intended to help structure global biodiversity monitoring, as well as to harmonize and standardize biodiversity data from heterogeneous sources, in order to capture a minimum number of critical variables to study, report and manage biodiversity change. Multi-temporal (RS) remote sensing observations are particularly relevant for automatically quantifying habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. They also make it possible to optimize fi eld data collection by focusing on representative sites, with significantly improved cost-effectiveness ratios. Ten candidate variables derived from spatial remote sensing have recently been identified and referred to as remotely sensed or remotely accessible EBVs (RS-EBVs) (Skidmore et al., 2015, Pettorelli et al., 2016a;).

Among the current challenges to improve the contribution of remote sensing to biodiversity conservation, strengthening multiple collaborative frameworks between remote-sensing scientists, conservation biologists and ecologists is necessary to improve the effectiveness of conservation methodologies and strategies. ■

Samuel Alleaume
Contributions FR |EN

Sandra Luque

Sandra Luques
Research Gate

To go further, the Landscape SEC launched in late March 2019 aspires to identify different indicators, including landscape parameters at various scales. By monitoring landscape fragmentation and alteration of natural habitats, these indicators will contribute to biodiversity conservation.

In their contribution to the special issue of MEE, Alleaume et al. show the value of leveraging multiple remote-sensing data sources with complementary spatial resolutions and revisiting capacities to focus on five candidate EBVs identified in natural and semi-natural open ecosystems (i.e. excluding closed forests, urban and agricultural areas). This forms a generic method for deriving indicators based on: (i) ecosystem distribution, (ii) land cover, (iii) heterogeneity, (iv) primary productivity, and (v) plant phenology.
Alleaume S., Dusseux, P., Thierion, V., Commagnac, L., Laventure, S., Lang, M., Féret, J.B., Hubert-Moy, L., Luque, S. (2018) “A generic remote sensing approach to derive operational Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) for conservation planning”, MEE, 9(8) : 1822-1836 DOI 10.1111/2041-210X.13033

More news


Half VHRS Soil Moisture series updated

Up to 10 series documenting soil moisture at plot-level every six days have been recently updated.



Theia projects with the SCO label: an ever-growing list

Irrigation, forest, mangrove, infectious disease prevention, soil moisture, carbon storage, value of hedgerows, rice cultivation… Update of SCO projects related to Theia SECs and RANs.



Monitoring 700,000 km² of the world’s glaciers

The Rate of Glaciers Elevation Change product is now available on Theia. It provides a map of the elevation changes of all glaciers on the globe between 2000 and 2019.