Review Paper

Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 13, pp 3287-3305

The ecosystem functioning dimension in conservation: insights from remote sensing

  • Javier CabelloAffiliated withDepartamento Biología Vegetal y Ecología, Centro Andaluz para la Evaluación y Seguimiento del Cambio Global, Universidad de Almería Email author 
  • , Néstor FernándezAffiliated withDepartamento Biología Vegetal y Ecología, Centro Andaluz para la Evaluación y Seguimiento del Cambio Global, Universidad de AlmeríaDepartment of Conservation Biology, Estación Biológica de Doñana, Spanish Council for Scientific Research-CSIC
  • , Domingo Alcaraz-SeguraAffiliated withDepartamento Biología Vegetal y Ecología, Centro Andaluz para la Evaluación y Seguimiento del Cambio Global, Universidad de AlmeríaEnvironmental Sciences Department, University of VirginiaDepartamento de Botánica. Facultad de Ciencias, Campus Universitario de Fuentenueva, Universidad de GranadaLaboratorio de Análisis Regional y Teledetección, IFEVA-Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires y CONICET
  • , Cecilio OyonarteAffiliated withDepartamento de Edafología y Química Agrícola, Centro Andaluz para la Evaluación y Seguimiento del Cambio Global, Universidad de Almería
  • , Gervasio PiñeiroAffiliated withLaboratorio de Análisis Regional y Teledetección, IFEVA-Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires y CONICET
  • , Alice AltesorAffiliated withDepartamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República
  • , Miguel DelibesAffiliated withDepartment of Conservation Biology, Estación Biológica de Doñana, Spanish Council for Scientific Research-CSIC
  • , José M. ParueloAffiliated withLaboratorio de Análisis Regional y Teledetección, IFEVA-Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires y CONICETDepartamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República

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Abstract

An important goal of conservation biology is the maintenance of ecosystem processes. Incorporating quantitative measurements of ecosystem functions into conservation practice is important given that it provides not only proxies for biodiversity patterns, but also new tools and criteria for management. In the satellite era, the translation of spectral information into ecosystem functional variables expands and complements the more traditional use of satellite imagery in conservation biology. Remote sensing scientists have generated accurate techniques to quantify ecosystem processes and properties of key importance for conservation planning such as primary production, ecosystem carbon gains, surface temperature, albedo, evapotranspiration, and precipitation use efficiency; however, these techniques are still unfamiliar to conservation biologists. In this article, we identify specific fields where a remotely-sensed characterization of ecosystem functioning may aid conservation science and practice. Such fields include the management and monitoring of species and populations of conservation concern; the assessment of ecosystem representativeness and singularity; the use of protected areas as reference sites to assess global change effects; the implementation of monitoring and warning systems to guide adaptive management; the direct evaluation of supporting ecosystem services; and the planning and monitoring of ecological restorations. The approaches presented here illustrate feasible ways to incorporate the ecosystem functioning dimension into conservation through the use of satellite-derived information.

Keywords

Conservation planning Ecosystem functioning descriptors Ecosystem monitoring Environmental change Protected areas Restoration ecology Species–environment relationships