The role of satellite remote sensing in structured ecosystem risk assessments

Nicholas J. Murray, David A. Keith, Lucie M. Bland, Renata Ferrari, Mitchell B. Lyons, Richard Lucas, Nathalie Pettorelli, Emily Nicholson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Citations (SciVal)


The current set of global conservation targets requires methods for monitoring the changing status of ecosystems. Protocols for ecosystem risk assessment are uniquely suited to this task, providing objective syntheses of a wide range of data to estimate the likelihood of ecosystem collapse. Satellite remote sensing can deliver ecologically relevant, long-term datasets suitable for analysing changes in ecosystem area, structure and function at temporal and spatial scales relevant to risk assessment protocols. However, there is considerable uncertainty about how to select and effectively utilise remotely sensed variables for risk assessment. Here, we review the use of satellite remote sensing for assessing spatial and functional changes of ecosystems, with the aim of providing guidance on the use of these data in ecosystem risk assessment. We suggest that decisions on the use of satellite remote sensing should be made a priori and deductively with the assistance of conceptual ecosystem models that identify the primary indicators representing the dynamics of a focal ecosystem.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-257
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date14 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • risk assessment
  • biodiversity monitoring
  • ecosystem status
  • earth observation
  • satellite remote sensing
  • ecological indicators


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