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Satellite eye on Protected Areas

Protected Areas and their networks are essential policy responses to habitat loss and fragmentation and a key means of reducing biodiversity decline and loss.

Yet open and free access to digital biodiversity data and information needed to best manage Protected Areas has been limited until now. Relevant data sources are also either not accessible online or only offer restricted access.

A new action taking place under the ECOPOTENTIAL project will therefore take new Earth Observation data and use it to model and assess changes to the health of ecosystems.

Combined with open data sharing, the satellite imagery can help improve our understanding of how deforestation, climate change and other threats affect Protected Areas and find solutions.

“The increase in the number of remote sensing methods opens up new opportunities for assessing how ecosystems change. This is vital in response to society’s needs for their services, such as for clean water and climate regulation,” said Jan Dusik, Europe Director for UN Environment. Around 60 participants – including managers of the Sierra Nevada, Wadden Sea and the Danube Delta – attended a workshop on 2 May near Pisa, Italy to assess four categories of such tools:

• Use of in situ monitoring data, including soil and water samples;

• Use and interpretation of Remote Sensing products, such as photographs and infrared images from satellites;

• Modelling of Ecosystems, ecosystem functions and services;

• Citizen science activities in Protected Areas


For each, participants learned how to use a virtual laboratory platform and share data so that Protected Areas can be managed from an ecosystem services perspective. Park managers will share solutions through the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, as well as the GEO Global Ecosystem Initiative.


“This event, together with the launch of the Virtual Laboratory Platform, will be the turning point for putting our research at the service of a broad community of users,” said Antonello Provenzale, Coordinator of the ECOPOTENTIAL project.


“This meeting represents an important milestone for our project, as it allows us to share our views on the use of Earth Observation data for the benefit of scientific research on protected areas and for creating a Community of Practice,” added Mr Provenzale, who is Director of the Institute of Geosciences and Earth Resources at Italy’s National Research Council.


The four-day event, titled ‘Application of Earth Observation tools in Protected Areas in Europe and beyond’ was held at the San Rossore – Migliarino – Massaciuccoli Regional Park in Pisa, Italy. It was organized by the Italian National Research Council together with the UN Environment and others. ECOPOTENTIAL is funded by the European Union and run by UN Environment and collaborating partners.


For more information on the project please click here, and for a full list of partners involved click here. For further details contact

















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