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D BON-07: Develop an updated list of candidate RS-enabled EBVs
Develop an updated list of candidate RS-enabled EBVs
Creation Year:
Completion Date:
2020 Q2
The original list of EBV candidates has been in flux as discussions have progressed. This updated list will feed into discussions at the GEO BON 2020 Open Science Meeting planned for June 2020 and lead to further refinement and consensus.
Link to GEO Work Programme:
External Reference:
Responsible Users:
Gary Geller
Responsible CEOS Entities:
CEOS Biodiversity expert
Contributing Agencies:
Progress Reports:
2019-09-07 03:10:24 UTC

March 2018:  In 2017, NASA announced the selection of 32 projects that support 9 elements in the GEO Work Programme.  These projects will be funded starting in 2018 for three years.  Eight projects are in direct support of GEO BON activities and will directly or indirectly facilitate the development of remote sensing enabled EBVs.  At the end of November, a joint webinar was held to introduce these projects, as well as two relevant projects funded by ESA (GlobDiversity) and the EC (Horizon 2020), to each other and to GEO BON. An additional goal was to develop a platform for future collaborations.  NASA and ESA personnel, GEO BON leadership, and project team members attended the webinar. The NASA, ESA, and EC projects will catalyze the development of observational requirements for remote sensing enabled EBVs, which can then be transmitted to CEOS and space agencies. In December, GEO BON submitted a technical note to the Convention on Biological Diversity to provide information about remote sensing enabled EBVs to this stakeholder community and to gather input on increasing the usability of EBVs to measure progress towards achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.Resulting from the September remote sensing enabled EBV workshop held in the Netherlands (see previous update), a journal article is under development to describe community progress towards defining remote sensing enabled EBVs.  October 2017: There has been significant process in developing descriptions and requirements for EBVs enabled by remote sensing.  ESA has funded a project under their GlobDiversity program that will be tasked with developing requirements for several EBVs in the next two years. NASA will soon announce funding for several additional EBV projects.  In September 2017, the community convened at a workshop to further prioritize remote sensing-based EBVs and refine EBV classes.  A workshop report and journal article are forthcoming. | 2019-09-26 19:49:45 UTC

Progress on the RS-enabled EBVs has proceeded primarily on three fronts:

1. The ESA-funded GlobDiversity Project developed a draft report describing each of the variables it has focused on (Land Surface Phenology, Canopy Chlorophyll Content, Ecosystem Extent and Fragmentation, and Vegetation Structure). The report outlines the role of each variable in assessing and monitoring biodiversity, spatiotemporal requirements and coverage, data products, readiness levels, and other characteristics. The future outlook for each is also discussed. 

2. NASA has funded eight projects (listed below) that support development of RS-enabled EBVs and their application. Seven of these projects have development of an RS-enabled EBV as a focus activity, and the eighth, which focuses on development of a marine biodiversity observation network, is a heavy EBV user. These projects are developing EBVs or related products for which remote sensing data are a key input, or that facilitates the application of the variable. For example:

  • Environmental data are needed to support development of maps of the distribution of species
  • A variety of RS data are used as inputs to ecosystem service models
  • Seascapes (areas of ocean with similar ecosystem characteristics) are being dynamically mapped and monitored using ocean color, sea surface temperature, surface topography, and other remote sensing observations

NASA-funded projects (specific progress for each is available at

  • Expanding Wallace Biodiversity Modeling Software to Support National Biodiversity Change Indicator Calculations for GEO BON Assessment and Reporting
  • Activities to Advance, Build, and Deliver Remote-Sensing Supported Species Distribution and Species Abundance EBVs
  • Improving Linkages Between EO and Ecosystem Service Models with EBVs
  • Dynamic Seascapes to Support a Biogeographic Framework for a Global Marine BON
  • Integration of EO for Decision Making on Biodiversity Management and Conservation in Colombia: Consolidation of the Colombian BON
  • Ecosystem Functional Diversity of the Circumpolar Arctic Tundra
  • Quantifying Forest Vertical Structure Using Spaceborne Lidar: A GEO BON EBV Application in Colombia
  • Laying the Foundations of the Pole-To-Pole MBON of the Americas

3. Each class of EBV has an associated GEO BON working group. While RS has a role in each of the six classes two of them are primarily RS-focused. The Ecosystem Structure working group has identified four variables and a total of 11 attributes (an EBV “attribute” further describes the EBV via specific characteristics and generally corresponds to a data product). While more work is required on all of them, two EBVs are relatively solid in terms of community acceptance and two may need considerably more discussion. The Ecosystem Function working group has identified four EBVs, two of which are relatively solid though further discussion is needed. Additionally, RS-based information--particularly environmental data and land cover datasets—are identified as a key input to several other EBVs in the other classes.


  • The GlobDiversity project will finalize its report describing its focus variables.
  • Each of the NASA projects will continue contributing to the development of the EBV concepts (via their participation in the GEO BON EBV working groups, and other means) as well as developing or contributing to development of EBV data products and their application.
  • The GEO BON EBV working groups will update their variable lists. This includes refinement of the variable definitions, of the observation requirements, and of the methods to create the related products. Because there are still some disagreements regarding which variables should finally be included, discussions will occur within and between the working groups to address these.
  • GEO BON is co-hosting two meetings in the next year (jointly with the IPBES Task Force on Scenarios and Models—IPBES is the UN’s Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services). These meetings will focus on refining at least one EBV in each EBV class and drafting potential production workflows. The goal is to support the development of indicators for the Nature Futures scenarios, which represent alternative desirable endpoints for society and nature. Through the use of models they enable development of potential pathways to reach those endpoints and thus help illuminate appropriate policies. Since EBVs reflect key dimensions of biodiversity they are crucial inputs to these models. Ecosystem Extent for both terrestrial and marine environments will be a focus variable, and others are under discussion. | 2019-12-12 01:39:04 UTC

BON-7 Update 2019-12-11

EBV development has continued and is on track to deliver an updated list of EBVs next year. Several related activities have contributed to progress. NASA-funded projects with a major focus on EBV development have led to advances in both EBV concept as well as implementation. For example, one project is focused on forest vertical profiles in Colombia (GEDI data will be a key input) and their experience has helped determine the best approach for capturing profile information as an EBV that can then be used to derive a range of products with important implications for biodiversity. Another project, focused on seascapes (the marine analogy to landscapes, which clusters ecologically similar pixels together), has helped clarify how to best represent the Ecosystem Distribution EBV.

All the NASA projects were represented at the GEO BON Implementation Committee meeting in Porto, Portugal in July, where EBVs were a major discussion topic. A key outcome of that meeting was a concept to unify how species and ecosystem distribution data were represented, later leading to agreement on a standard approach. This has a variety of benefits, including a simplified the distinction between EBVs and their derived products which, while only a bookkeeping issue, has implications for responsibility and allocation of development and product generation activities.

A third activity was a meeting at the Smithsonian Ecological Research Center on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, USA that focused on EBV development so as to facilitate implementation and creation of EBV datasets. The NASA projects were represented there as well as a variety of other participants from each of the EBV working groups and from the IPBES Scenarios and Models Task Force developing “Nature Futures” scenarios (IPBES is the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, analogous to the IPCC). The TF members were potential users of the EBVs—among other things they will use EBVs to generate indicators--so provided information on user needs as well as expertise. This four day meeting enabled discussions within each EBV working group and also provided a venue for cross-EBV discussions. This led to an improved set of EBVs (as well as some of their derived products) and follow-up discussions are underway in preparation for a second EBV meeting in February 2020.

2019-09-07 03:10:24 UTC
Last Updated:
2020-09-04 21:09:34 UTC