Satellite remote sensing of ecosystem functions: opportunities, challenges and way forward

Nathalie Pettorelli, Henrike Schulte To Bühne, Ayesha Tulloch, Grégoire Dubois, Cate Macinnis-Ng, Ana M. Queirós, David A. Keith, Martin Wegmann, Franziska Schrodt, Marion Stellmes, Ruth Sonnenschein, Gary N. Geller, Shovonlal Roy, Ben Somers, Nicholas Murray, Lucie Bland, Ilse Geijzendorffer, Jeremy T. Kerr, Stefanie Broszeit, Pedro J. LeitãoClare Duncan, Ghada El Serafy, Kate S. He, Julia L. Blanchard, Richard Lucas, Paola Mairota, Thomas J. Webb, Emily Nicholson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Citations (SciVal)
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Societal, economic and scientific interests in knowing where biodiversity is, how it is faring and what can be done to efficiently mitigate further biodiversity loss and the associated loss of ecosystem services are at an all-time high. So far, however, biodiversity monitoring has primarily focused on structural and compositional features of ecosystems despite growing evidence that ecosystem functions are key to elucidating the mechanisms through which biological diversity generates services to humanity. This monitoring gap can be traced to the current lack of consensus on what exactly ecosystem functions are and how to track them at scales beyond the site level. This contribution aims to advance the development of a global biodiversity monitoring strategy by proposing the adoption of a set of definitions and a typology for ecosystem functions, and reviewing current opportunities and potential limitations for satellite remote sensing technology to support the monitoring of ecosystem functions worldwide. By clearly defining ecosystem processes, functions and services and their interrelationships, we provide a framework to improve communication between ecologists, land and marine managers, remote sensing specialists and policy makers, thereby addressing a major barrier in the field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-93
Number of pages23
JournalRemote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation
Issue number2
Early online date10 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • biodiversity loss
  • biodiversity monitoring
  • ecosystem functions
  • ecosystem services
  • satellite remote sensing


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