Biodiversity loss is a major threat to ecosystem health and to Earth’s life support systems, with human activities causing rapid and widespread loss and shifts in distribution. These changes will have accelerating consequences for human well-being and the flows of carbon, water, nutrients, and energy through the Earth system.
Progress in both fundamental biodiversity science and applied conservation efforts have been constrained by limited spatial and temporal availability of biodiversity data, says Professor Jeannine Cavender-Bares of University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Studies.
The creation of such an observation system is exactly what the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) study program ‘Unlocking a New Era in Biodiversity Science: Linking Integrated Space Based and In-Situ Observations’ is aiming to do.
Thank you to @Caltech's Keck Institute for Space Studies for inviting @belgaroo to present on TERN #ResearchInfrastructure at the recent biodiversity workshop to link space-based & in-situ observations https://t.co/P136PNSpyT We look forward to ongoing collaborations. pic.twitter.com/irTSdsYxiI— TERN (@TERN_Aus) March 28, 2019
Over the past year, a series of ambitious collaborative workshops have been held for the program involving more than 32 scientists, engineers and technologists from multiple universities and organisations including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the USA’s National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), CSIRO and TERN.
Dr Erika Podest of JPL's Earth Science Division is one of the program’s leads, alongside Professor Cavender-Bares and Professor Kyle McDonald of the City College of New York, and says that it provides the opportunity to inform the development and planning of exciting new Earth science space missions.
The first workshop in October 2018 included discussions on programmatic goals relevant to biodiversity, opportunities afforded by new and planned remote sensing missions, and new measurements, biodiversity issues associated with various levels of organisation, and current capabilities associated with in-situ collections from station networks and field collections.
Flexibility and a range of options in how users interface with remote sensing data were considered as key components of the envisioned system and may drive technology development needs. Such a system would include a ‘sandbox’ that would allow scientists to flexibly apply different models to data streams at different scales and levels of biodiversity organization, facilitating associated discovery science.
Day 2 of the Biodiversity workshop at the Keck Institute for Space Studies. pic.twitter.com/yuxMO8v3Dj— Laura Bertola (@LauraDBertola) October 2, 2018
The program’s second workshop in March 2019, participants worked on defining an overall architectural construct to support the observation network vision and its specific components.
TERN user and collaborator, Dr Brad Evans of the University of Sydney, represented TERN at the workshops and says that significant progress was made on identifying the necessary technology and remote sensing required, including utilising archived, current, and planned remote sensing datasets from space missions such as NASA’s ECOSTRESS and GEDI, and ESA’s BIOMASS mission.
Globally, there is significant progress in advancing the fundamental issues of remote sensing science, such as understanding the information content of measurements from new sensors on board the International Space Station. The development of these space-based observations, such as Solar Induced Florence, significantly advances biodiversity science, but, as Professor McDonald explains, they are just part of the picture.
Keep an eye out in future TERN newsletters, the TERN website and our socials for announcements on this landmark guide for setting the future direction of space-based biodiversity science.
TERN's ecosystem monitoring SuperSites, including at Robson Creek in Queensland (above), were used as a leading global example of in-situ infrastructure that collects long-term data that can be integrated with remotely-sensed measures to gain a broad landscape-scale understanding of biodiversity (image courtesy of Kim Calders)
Published in TERN newsletter November 2019