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Fostering Sustainability in European Nature Conservation NATURA 2000 Habitat Monitoring based on Earth Observation Services
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , * 6
1  Luftbild und Planung (LUP), Brandenburg, Germany
2  Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), Mol, Belgium
3  EFTAS GmbH, Münster, Germany
4  Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Brussels, Belgium
5  Technical University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
6  Centre for Geoinformatics (Z_GIS), University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria

Abstract: Since 1992, European Member States are legally committed to monitor the biodiversity in designated areas of community interest. This was the success of the European Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC; HabDir) which established a network of these NATURA 2000 sites where trends in area and the quality of the protected habitats have to be observed. To fulfill the Directive\'s reporting requirements, Earth observation (EO) techniques are regarded as crucial to effectively map and monitor habitat status and change dynamics. The derived information supports public authorities in implementing management strategies The shift from focusing on single species to protecting entire habitats is a step towards sustaining the natural environment sensu nature conservation in several aspects: (1) habitats have a large umbrella function providing living space to whole ecosystems and (2) habitat protection is area-effective meaning that habitats have critical spatial parameters of their integrity (such as connectivity etc.), which can be assessed mapped and managed. That results in a significant share of a country\'s territory is under direct concern. The potential of new concepts and methods combing EO data and in-situ measurements is currently investigated in the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) project MS.MONINA ( which aims at offering EO-based services to authorities on European, national and local level. The multiscale approach followed by the project reflects both the specific information requirements on different (political) implementation levels of the Directive and the ecological levels addressed, i.e. the level of single habitats, over habitat arrangements on site and range level, up to biogeographical regions. Local management of NATURA 2000 sites is required to regularly report on the conservation status including information on habitat range, area, quality, impacts and threats. Monitoring the changes also includes judging whether site conditions would improve or deteriorate. The latter triggers explicit management strategies in order to safeguard a favorable conservation status. Dependent on the occurring habitat types and pressures, specific information products are required from high-resolution satellite imagery. Such services shall be provided in a high operational level so to deliver the required information steadily and sound, but also user-focused. Several pilot sites all over Europe have been chosen in MS.MONINA to elaborate information products for different habitat types and user requirements. Heathlands, grasslands, estuaries, floodplains and riverine forests, as well as alpine meadows are among the habitats to be addressed. The anthropogenic impacts include farming, settlement land use, land abandonment and tourism. On the level of federal states or countries tools will be provided to monitor precious ecosystems outside the NATURA 2000 network of protected areas. On either level, services based on dedicated EO-based data helps foster a sustainable maintenance of precious ecosystems and reduce the loss of biodiversity.
Keywords: remote sensing, habitats, Earth observation, conservation status, EU, monitoring