In 2018 technologies on the International Space Station will provide ∼1 year of synchronous observations of ecosystem composition, structure and function. We discuss these instruments and how they can be used to constrain global models and improve our understanding of the current state of terrestrial ecosystems.

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Many of these ideas were born and developed at the workshop on Exploring New Multi-Instrument Approaches to Observing Terrestrial Ecosystems and the Carbon Cycle from Space that occurred 5–9 October 2015 and was funded by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS), organized by Michelle Judd, and hosted at the institute facility at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. Additionally, the ideas in this article would not have been possible without the contributions of each participant. The majority of the work was internally funded and carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Also, S.S. was supported during the writing of this manuscript by the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE) in the Tropics, which is supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Department of Energy, Office of Science, and through the United States Department of Energy (grant no. DE-SC0012704) to Brookhaven National Laboratory. R.D. is funded by NASA Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation Mission (grant no. NNL15AA03C). P.W. acknowledges support from the NASA Carbon Cycle Science programme (grant no. NNX14AI60G). J.F. is funded by the NASA ECOSTRESS project. A.S. was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) through the Dimensions of Biodiversity programme (DEB-1342872).

Author information


  1. E. Natasha Stavros, David Schimel, Ryan Pavlick and Joshua B. Fisher are in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91109, USA.

    • E. Natasha Stavros
    • , David Schimel
    • , Ryan Pavlick
    •  & Joshua B. Fisher
  2. Shawn Serbin is at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York 11973-5000, USA.

    • Shawn Serbin
  3. Abigail Swann is at University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98105, USA.

    • Abigail Swann
  4. Laura Duncanson is at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA.

    • Laura Duncanson
  5. Fabian Fassnacht is at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 76021 Karlsruhe, Germany.

    • Fabian Fassnacht
  6. Susan Ustin is at University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.

    • Susan Ustin
  7. Ralph Dubayah is at University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.

    • Ralph Dubayah
  8. Susan Ustin and Anna Schweiger are at University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55455, USA.

    • Anna Schweiger
  9. Paul Wennberg is at California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.

    • Paul Wennberg


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E.N.S. is the lead writer for the manuscript, D.S. led discussions and helped articulate the key points of discussion for the manuscript, R.P. provided HISUI and OCO-3 information and panels in Fig. 2 as well as with edits for the manuscript, S.S. helped edit the general text, developed Fig. 2 and provided text for terrestrial biosphere models section, A.S. helped edit the general text and provided text for terrestrial biosphere models sections, L.D. provided the GEDI panel in Fig. 2 and text describing GEDI, J.B.F. helped with general editing and provided the ECOSTRESS panel in Fig. 2, F.F. helped with general editing, S.U. helped develop the original manuscript outline, R.D., A.S. and P.W. were key in contributing ideas for the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to E. Natasha Stavros.