Harnessing the potential of satellite remote sensing research in the face of climate change

Nathalie Pettorelli

Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RY, UK @Pettorelli, @ZSLScience

Climate change is a growing threat to the Earth’s biological diversity, potentially leading to detrimental impacts on ecosystem services and human well-being, particularly for the world’s most marginalized and impoverished communities. Our ability to monitor the state of biodiversity and the impacts of global environmental change on our natural capital is fundamental to designing effective adaptation and mitigation strategies. This requires the scientific community to assess spatio-temporal changes in the distribution of abiotic conditions and in the distribution, structure, composition and functioning of ecosystems. The potential for satellite remote sensing (SRS) to provide key data has been highlighted by many researchers, with SRS offering repeatable, standardised and verifiable information on long-term trends in biodiversity indicators. SRS permits one to address questions on scales inaccessible to ground-based methods alone, facilitating the development of an integrated approach to natural resource management, where pressures to biodiversity, biodiversity state and consequences of management decisions can all be monitored. Here I will provide an interdisciplinary perspective on the prospects of SRS for ecological applications, reviewing established avenues but also highlighting new research and technological developments that have a high potential to make a difference in climate change ecology and environmental management. I will also discuss current barriers to the ecological application of SRS-based approaches, and identify possible ways to overcome some of these limitations.