D2. Towards a dynamic assessment of habitats conservation status: from in situ data to Copernicus services

Jose Manuel Álvarez-Martínez (Environmental Hydraulics Institute ‘IHCantabria’, University of Cantabria), jm.alvarez@unican.es

Borja Jiménez Alfaro (Research Unit of Biodiversity, University of Oviedo)


A current challenge of biodiversity and conservation relies on mapping habitat types at the landscape scale. In the absence of fine-resolution maps, predictive modelling provides a useful tool still uncommon in planning and management. The objective of this symposium will be collecting works designed for monitoring ecosystems with suitable estimates of their distribution and conservation status at different scales. Approaches will combine ground data and limiting factors, remote sensing (Copernicus) and modelling, allowing harmonizing habitat maps across space and time under Global Change scenarios.


There is an increasing interest in mapping the distribution and ecological status of ecosystems as an effective tool for conservation planning and management. Monitoring and reporting this conservation status requires knowledge about the distributional patterns of vegetation types to estimate regional extents, rarity and potential distribution, among other factors. However, there is a lack of long-term regional initiatives designed from the landscape to biogeographical levels. High spatial resolution maps have been mainly developed by using field surveys and visual interpretation of aerial imagery. However, these traditional surveys are resource consuming and can only be applied to small areas; therefore, vegetation maps are often not available or outdated to entire regions. Given limited resource availability and the need for continuous data allowing biodiversity estimations in a changing world, a current challenge is the complementary development of readily available maps across geographical ranges and through time. In this regard, predictive mapping based on remote sensing may provide an important opportunity for conservation, planning and management at the mesoscale.

Remote sensing techniques (i.e. Copernicus) offer a direct source of continuous data from airborne or satellite sensors, which allows the identification of the current distribution of ecosystems in the landscape. Although these methods do not replace field observations and need to be always coupled with them, they provide additional insights to traditional mapping, such as: (i) objective and continuous data, (ii) faster map production, (iii) insight into inaccessible terrain, (iv) consistent land cover and vegetation maps at geographical scales and (v) improved repeatability of the mapping process. Certainly, the combination of in-situ ecological information remote sensing (including satellite and UAV information, LiDAR and RADAR) has been applied to characterize specific vegetation types at a medium to local scale. Nevertheless, in spite of the long tradition of predictive mapping with remote sensing, no many studies have integrated these techniques into a generalized framework to estimate the distribution and conservation status following standardized and affordable approaches. This is especially relevant in heterogeneous and changing landscapes given the ongoing debate of defining boundaries or ecotones when modelling vegetation cover.

Following these guidelines, the objective of this symposium will be addressing two main questions: (i) Can predictive modelling based on environmental predictors and remote sensing generate suitable estimates (indicators) of the distribution and conservation status of a variety of habitat types at a regional scale? (ii) Can we create unique vegetation maps by merging individual predictions for each habitat type that represents a reliable pattern of the landscape continuum that result useful for landscape planning and management?


A reviewing paper and a network of researchers within IALE in the topic of habitat mapping and ecosystem monitoring with remote sensing (Copernicus).