Share icon
Integrating ecosystem services (ES), the benefits provided by nature to people, into decision-making is becoming widespread. ES language and frameworks are widely used in decision settings including watershed management, infrastructure development, investment, planning, and disaster-management and have been integrated into mandates from governments worldwide. ES valuation tools can be dramatically improved through the integration of Earth Observation (EO) data, and demand for ES models incorporating EO is growing. We are partnering with The Natural Capital Project (NatCap), which develops and maintains InVEST, a free, open-source data and analytical platform for mapping and modeling diverse ES. InVEST has been downloaded over 30,000 times in more than 167 countries. By engaging NatCap as a key partner on this project, we will connect directly with decision-makers demanding ES valuation information and integrate EO products into a widely-used ES valuation tool. Integrating newer EO products will move ES valuation tools beyond simplistic categorical representations of land-use, a paint-by-numbers approach to assigning a ES provisioning value to all pixels in the same class. There are a number of opportunities for integrating EO data into ES valuation. At what we call Tier 1 are EO products that are ready for integration with little to no modification or manipulation of the data or models. In Tier 2, data will require post-processing or model modification before integration. We expect that at Tier 3 novel EO data and ES models must be developed, and we will identify priorities for doing so through this project. We propose a series of workshops that will bring together the EO and ES communities to identify EO products and ES models that fit the above categories, to develop proof-of-concept products, and to facilitate collaboration and grant development for cutting-edge projects. The workshops will have two aims. One, participants will focus on developing new science to better value ES using EO products. Two, they will address technical hurdles to incorporating EO products into ES valuation tools. The proposed series of two small (~15 person) and one large (~40 person) workshops will build ongoing connections and stimulate a community interested in using EO for ES valuation. Our multi-workshop approach is designed to engage particularly influential researchers more intimately and a broader group, including practitioners and early-career researchers, at a larger meeting. The second, larger, workshop will be held in conjunction with the preexisting NatCap Symposium. Our impact will be broad because the use of EO in ES will be highlighted throughout the Symposium, exposing decision-makers and ES analysts who may not be currently employing or interested in EO products to their use. Workshop participants will be challenged to produce both concrete examples of how EO products could be used in existing ES valuation tools and be more theoretical, laying out the different ways that EO could be used in ES valuation and providing a framework for development of novel ES valuation tools designed with EO as an integral part. These workshops will also address the practical, technical challenges of integrating evolving and sophisticated EO products into evolving and user-friendly ES valuation tools. There is tremendous opportunity to integrate EO into ES valuation. The series of three workshops proposed here will bring together the remote sensing and ES communities to identify linkages between EO products and ES models, demonstrate those EO-ES connections, and develop new projects. Our impact will be extend beyond workshop participants because of our partnership with NatCap. In addition to highlighting the use of EO in ES valuation throughout the NatCap Symposium, NatCap staff will disseminate our findings through their training materials and on-the-ground ES valuation projects.