Space-based solutions for biodiversity monitoring in service of the European Habitats Directive

Authors and Affiliations: 

Stefan Langa (on behalf of MS. MONINA) and Palma Blondab(on behalf of BIO_SOS)

a University of Salzburg, Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS, Schillerstr. 30, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

bNational Research Council - Institute of Intelligent Systems for Automation (CNR-ISSIA), Via G. Amendola 122, 70126, Bari, Italy

*Corresponding author: Stefan Lang. Phone: 0043 662 8044 7562, Email:


NATURA 2000, the European answer to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), is one of the world‘s most effective legal instruments concerning biodiversity and nature. The EU Habitats Directive (council directive 92/43/EEC) requires standardised monitoring and reporting. In this framework, Earth observation (EO) data and techniques can offer (pre-)operational, yet economically priced solution to provide timely information on pressures and impacts, to establish spatial priority for conservation and  evaluate its effectiveness. MS. MONINA ( and BIO_SOS ( projects, funded within Copernicus (former GMES) initiative, explore EO data combined with data from ground surveys. MS.MONINA fosters advanced EO-based analysis and modelling tools, specifically tailored to user requirements in terms of relevance, level-of-detail and scale, steadiness and reliability, uptake and fitness to existing workflows. Such services are expected to fully integrate the recent potential of EO techniques and image analysis routines. Three (sub-)services are offered, reflecting the different levels of operation, .EU, .State, and .Site. Each of the service developments is tailored to the user- and technical requirements specific to each level. Demonstrators, accompanied by a full-fledged user validation exercise, complete the service evolution plan and the final scoping towards market. We address agencies on EU level (e.g. ETC Biodiv, EEA and DG Env) providing independent information; national and federal agencies in reporting on the entire territory by utilizing an information layer concept; local management authorities by advanced mapping methods for status assessment and change maps. BIO_SOS mainly focuses on the development of a unified ecological modelling system able to integrate EO derived products, such as Land Cover/Use (LCLU) maps, with on-site data by embedding expert knowledge into the system for reducing the need for extensive, expensive field surveys. Land cover/use and habitat classes are described by the experts in terms of their temporal characteristics and/or spatial relationships and this information is used in the classification. Ontologies and semantic networks are used to describe LCLU and habitat classes along with the transitions rules between the two domains. BIO_SOS has adopted the Food and Agriculture (FAO) Land Cover Classification System (LCCS) scheme for class identification because of its more generic approach with respect to CORINE and suitability for LCLU to habitat translation trough General Habitat Categories (GHCs). BIO_SOS develops a modelling framework for pressure analysis and threat assessment in different protected areas with the aim to evaluate their impacts on habitats. The two sister projects with their commonalities and complementaries shall solicit interactions among scientific communities and users during the conference highlighting space based policy support and implementation.