Monitoring and better characterizing natural or close-to-natural vegetation is essential to support the sustainability of human-environment systems from local to global scales. Moreover, analysing and monitoring processes related to unmanaged land are crucial to deepen understanding of indirect global environmental impacts and help to improve environmental models.
EnMAP imagery will be extremely useful for monitoring natural ecosystems and their services by allowing the accurate quantification of gradually evolving biophysical parameters, and the description of heterogeneous landscapes through the estimation of natural composition and pixel fractions of cover. The following main scientific tasks are related to natural ecosystems:
- Assess ecosystems services, such as the above-ground carbon sequestration potential;
- Retrieve biochemical and biophysical parameters as input in ecosystem and species habitat models to improve understanding of ecosystems and ecological processes;
- Assess the spatial pattern of ecosystems and biodiversity distributions from local to global scales in the context of nature protection legislation, such as the European Habitats Directive;
- Monitor natural or quasi-natural vegetation areas to understand causes and driving forces of change (e.g. land abandonment, forest disturbance, land degradation processes);
- Quantify spatial and temporal ecosystem transitions, such as vegetation succession, habitat heterogeneity, and plant or animal community transitions, and assess potential feedback mechanisms;
- Investigate the effect of climate change and other anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic forces on global vegetation gradients.