Connecting Earth observation to high-throughput biodiversity data


Understandably, given the fast pace of biodiversity loss, there is much interest in using Earth observation technology to track biodiversity, ecosystem functions and ecosystem services. However, because most biodiversity is invisible to Earth observation, indicators based on Earth observation could be misleading and reduce the effectiveness of nature conservation and even unintentionally decrease conservation effort. We describe an approach that combines automated recording devices, high-throughput DNA sequencing and modern ecological modelling to extract much more of the information available in Earth observation data. This approach is achievable now, offering efficient and near-real-time monitoring of management impacts on biodiversity and its functions and services.

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Figure 1: Connecting Earth observation to biodiversity and ecosystems.
Figure 2: Metabarcoding and metagenomic processing pipelines for high-throughput biodiversity surveys.
Figure 3: Three statistical pathways to map community composition and summary metrics from the combination of biodiversity point samples and continuous Earth observation maps.


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This Perspective is a product of the EO-BESS Working Group, organized by H.B., D.R. and B.C. and funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council. Individual author acknowledgements are in Supplementary Information.

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B.C. and H.B. led the sections on Earth observation technology. K.B. and D.W.Y. led the sections on biodiversity technology. A.B. led the sections on statistical modelling. A.B., R.S., A.W., O.O., and D.W.Y. led the sections on case studies (Box 3 and ‘From CEOBE to Aichi’). C.M. led the conclusions section. Figures were created by K.B., A.B., C.C. and A.Z. All authors contributed to multiple rewrites, with a large contribution by D.R; A.B. and D.W.Y. wrote the first draft and supervised the work.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Douglas W. Yu.

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Competing interests

D.W.Y. and A.V. are co-founders of a private company that provides commercial metabarcoding services.

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Supplementary Notes 1–4, Supplementary Figure 1, Supplementary Acknowledgements, Supplementary References (PDF 778 kb)

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Bush, A., Sollmann, R., Wilting, A. et al. Connecting Earth observation to high-throughput biodiversity data. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 0176 (2017).

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