Towards a Mature Age of Remote Sensing for Natura 2000 Habitat Conservation: Poor Method Transferability as a Prime Obstacle

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Over the past decades, remote sensing has been repeatedly identified as a promising and powerful tool to aid nature conservation. Many methods and applications of remote sensing to monitor biodiversity have indeed been published, and continue to be at an increasing rate. As such, remote sensing is seemingly living up to its expectations; yet, its actual use in nature conservation (or rather the lack thereof) contradicts this. We argue that, at least for the practical implementation of regular vegetation monitoring, including within protected areas (e.g., European Natura 2000 sites), a lack of transferability of remote sensing methods is an overlooked factor that hinders its effective operational use for nature conservation. Among the causes of poor method transferability is the large variation in objects of interest, user requirements, ground reference data, and image properties, but also the lack of consideration of transferability during method development. To stimulate the adoption of remote sensing based techniques in vegetation monitoring and conservation, we recommend that a number of actions are taken. We call upon remote sensing scientists and nature monitoring experts to specifically consider and demonstrate method transferability by using widely available image data, limiting ground reference data dependence, and making their preferably open-source programming code publicly available. Furthermore, we recommend that nature conservation specialists are open and realistic about potential outcomes by not expecting the replacement of current in-place methodologies, and actively contributing to the thought process of generating transferable and repeatable methods.
We believe a new focus on method repeatability instead of novelty, would herald a mature era for remote sensing in nature conservation, in which remote sensing, through its operational use, would truly live up to its potential for nature conservation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Roles of Remote Sensing in Nature Conservation : A Practical Guide and Case Studies
EditorsRicardo Díaz-Delgado, Richard Lucas, Clive Hurford
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Publication date9-Nov-2017
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-64330-4
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-64332-8
Publication statusPublished - 9-Nov-2017

Thematic list

  • Natura 2000 monitoring
  • Habitats


  • Habitats Directive
  • Natura 2000

Geographic list

  • Europe


  • image processing

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