CORDIS - Forschungsergebnisse der EU

Satellite-based Wetland Observation Service

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SWOS (Satellite-based Wetland Observation Service)

Berichtszeitraum: 2016-12-01 bis 2018-11-30

Wetlands are critical for human health and well-being and are hotspots of biodiversity. They are also one of the fastest declining ecosystems worldwide. An increase in the conversion of natural areas to urban and agricultural areas, infrastructure development, water diversion and pollution of air and water are some of the main factors causing their degradation and loss.

Information on the location of wetlands, their ecological character and the services they give people (such as sources of water and food, storage of carbon and buffering or mitigation of disaster risks) is often sparse and difficult to find or access. The result is a limited coverage of wetlands in policies and management practices.

The Satellite-based Wetland Observation Service (SWOS) project fills the information gap, which is hindering adequate management and protection of wetlands. SWOS generates information on wetland ecosystems using the opportunities offered by freely available satellite data. The SWOS Toolbox GEOclassifier and the SWOS / GEO-wetlands Community Portal provides wetland managers, policy-makers and scientists with access to tools to map the ecological character of wetlands and prepare indicators of wetland condition and changes.

The most important objective of the SWOS project was to provide a user-friendly wetland monitoring and information service that is developed with and for users. With an innovative approach, SWOS supplies stakeholders with harmonized wetland information that supports management and reporting for environmental policies in different regions and at different scales. The service demonstrates opportunities for improved wetland management, planning and decision making, promoting the integration of wetlands across key policy areas.
As a baseline for the development of the SWOS services, the consortium started by defining the requirements for the SWOS technical components, products, toolbox and portal, as well as the preferred method of user engagement. The SWOS user group consists of local, national, regional and global working organisations, ranging from local wetland managing organisations, Ramsar national authorities, MedWet and other regional frameworks, GEO/GEOBON to the secretariat of the Ramsar convention on wetlands.
The SWOS team has actively searched for synergy and alignment with relevant platforms and projects. One such example is the cooperation with the H2020 project ECOPOTENTIAL.
SWOS worked closely and contributed to different GEO initiatives. The GEO-Wetlands initiative, initiated and led by SWOS, was officially approved by the GEO-XIII Plenary in 2016. GEO-Wetlands provides a framework for cooperation and for ensuring the long-term availability of mapping and monitoring services for wetlands.

SWOS provides 4 different service lines and several different service cases:

1) Map and indicator production, which has been demonstrated for about 50 wetland sites in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. SWOS has developed standards for the map production, for nomenclatures and has developed nine wetland indicators and many sub-indicators
2) The Software development, which delivers the freely available toolbox GEOclassifier. The toolbox provides all tools for the production of maps and calculation of indicators. The software is independent and stand alone.
3) There is a SWOS training program and training team available to teach users at different working levels how to produce new maps and indicators. The integration of new satellite-based tools into the daily work needs permanent and solid support.
4) The SWOS / GEO-Wetlands community portal makes available all maps produced in the framework of SWOS. In addition, the portal connects wetland information with freely available European and global layers that are useful for wetland monitoring.

‘Service cases’ have been introduced to demonstrate to users working on local, national and global level how satellite-derived information can be applied and integrated into very different services for planning, management and reporting. The development of service cases has linked the SWOS products to policy processes and assisted identification of issues for the SWOS project to engage with.
SWOS users work at global, regional to local levels, including those on the ground with a direct role in managing wetlands, implementing policies and reporting to focal points. They use SWOS products to support the policies they implement. The policy context and the resulting reporting and monitoring obligations are significant drivers of ecosystem monitoring inside and outside of Europe.

Multilateral Environmental Agreements and other global processes mention wetland habitat conservation and ecosystem service safeguarding numerous times underlining their importance for the international conservation community. The SWOS project makes major contributions to the improvement of global mapping, monitoring and assessment of these important ecosystems and their services, through its standardized monitoring service for wetland ecosystems based on Earth Observation satellites. The service provides a unique entry point for users to easily locate, access and connect wetland information through the community portal.

SWOS partners have engaged with users, policy makers and other stakeholders of the Ramsar Convention, UNFCCC and the Convention of Biological Diversity to raise awareness and stimulate discussions around the use of satellite remote sensing for wetland inventory, monitoring and assessment.

The SWOS services contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by supporting countries in meeting their reporting obligations for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). For example, SWOS products and tools are designed to compute ecosystem extent data required to monitor SDG Indicator 6.6.1: “change in extent of water-related ecosystems over time” as well as to meet the priorities set under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification “Land Degradation Neutrality” (LDN) principle (also targeted under SDG 15).

SWOS Land Use Land Cover products have been used to compare Ramsar site boundary information from the World Database of Protected Areas (WDPA) or Ramsar database with the spatial distribution of important wetland habitats at 29 sites in 15 countries. This approach demonstrates how protected area designations can be designed or revised to offer the best possible protection for natural features of importance.

In Europe, SWOS helps ensure that the European Union takes a leading role in wetland management by contributing to policy making and sustainable decision making. SWOS has supported in raising the discussion for a refinement of EU Strategies and Directives to better integrate wetland ecosystems and the development towards a European environmental model for wetland management and maintenance of wetland ecosystem services. Moreover, SWOS has introduced validated tools and methods to guide EU action towards achieving no-net-loss and restoration targets and objectives for wetland ecosystems. SWOS products have fed the analytical framework for Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystem Condition in the EU (MAES). This framework provides a knowledge base on ecosystems and their services which can help deliver on the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.