The ecosystem functioning dimension in conservation: insights from remote sensing

Biodiversity and Conservation (2012) 21:3287-3305

The ecosystem functioning dimension in conservation: insights from remote sensing.


Javier Cabello, Nestor Fernandez, Domingo Alcaraz-Segura, Cecilio Oyonarte, Gervasio Piñeiro, Alice Altesor, Miguel Delibes, Jo sé M. Paruelo.


Abstract. An important goal of conservation biology is the maintenance of ecosystem processes. Incorporating quantitative measurements of ecosystem functions into conservation practice is important given that it provides not only proxies for biodiversity patterns, but also new tools and criteria for management. In the satellite era, the translation of spectral information into ecosystem functional variables expands and complements the more traditional use of satellite imagery in conservation biology. Remote sensing scientists have generated accurate techniques to quantify ecosystem processes and properties of key importance for conservation planning such as primary production, ecosystem carbon gains, surface temperature, albedo, evapotranspiration, and precipitation use efficiency; however, these techniques are still unfamiliar to conservation biologists. In this article, we identify specific fields where a remotely-sensed characterization of ecosystem functioning may aid conservation science and practice. Such fields include the management and monitoring of species and populations of conservation concern; the assessment of ecosystem representativeness and singularity; the use of protected areas as reference sites to assess global change effects; the implementation of monitoring and warning systems to guide adaptive management; the direct evaluation of supporting ecosystem services; and  the planning and monitoring of ecological restorations. The approaches presented here illustrate feasible ways to incorporate the ecosystem functioning dimension into conservation through the use of satellite-derived information.