Using satellite data for ecosystems service assessments

Using satellite data for ecosystems service assessments

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France: Satellites show how we can promote economic development in an environmentally sustainable manner by putting a price on nature’s resources. Satellites are being used to create digital elevation models of Mount Rinjani, located on the Indonesian island of Lombok, as well as land use and land cover maps to support hydrological calculations and classify forests. Estimates of forest volume and density help to calculate carbon sequestration. These efforts will help in assessing the value of Lombok’s forest resource. Putting a price on these features is one way to find out if keeping the forest is more profitable than destroying it for farming.

This concept of ‘natural capital accounting’ – also known as Ecosystems Service Assessments – can also be applied to wetlands, deserts, rangelands, grasslands and coastal areas. All of our natural reserves provide valuable assets to society in terms of measurable and accountable services.

Working with a consortium of experts from five specialist Earth observation service companies, European Space Agency (ESA) is now increasing its efforts in Ecosystems Service Assessments. Following initiatives by the European Environment Agency and the Joint Research Centre, ESA is improving its capacity to measure natural capital around the world using satellite data to promote sustainable development.

This kind of evaluation is appealing to policy-makers as national efforts can be implemented to incorporate the value of a country’s natural resource into the country’s monetary accounts. This can be done by accounting for the effects of air pollution and depletion of natural resources on a given country’s gross domestic product, thereby giving a clearer picture of the country’s economy.

Source: ESA