Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 641762
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.5.5.


Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Healthy ecosystems provide essential goods and services to human societies and are of central importance for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, anthropogenic pressures cause severe threats to ecosystem integrity, functions and processes, potentially leading to the loss of ecosystem services - the benefits ecosystems provide to humankind. Protected Areas, in particular, represent a crucial component of the natural capital and provide ecosystem services that are often unavailable in the surrounding regions.
Proper management and conservation actions require the quantitative knowledge of the state and changes taking place in ecosystems. Recent advances in Earth Observation (Remote Sensing and in situ measurements) offer new opportunities to monitor ecosystem functions, processes and services, and the pressures they face. ECOPOTENTIAL focuses its activities and pilot actions on a targeted set of internationally recognized Protected Areas, including mountain, arid and semiarid, and coastal and marine ecosystems.
The project aims to deliver products of Earth Observation data to understand and monitor ongoing changes in ecosystems and support effective management of Protected Areas.
ECOPOTENTIAL also intends to quantitatively assess the future expected changes in ecosystems and ecosystem services. To achieve this goal, the project develops and implements climate and ecological models able to generate future ecosystem projections and with the ability to estimate the uncertainties on the projections. The project will consider changes in provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services, while taking into consideration policy developments, including citizen science activities and implementing capacity building and outreach activities in close connection with the Protected Areas personnel.
All data, model results and acquired knowledge will be made available on common and open platforms that will be contributing to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) and will be fully interoperable with the GEOSS Common Infrastructure (GCI). In this way, ECOPOTENTIAL will benefit different communities, scientists, Protected Area managers and citizens.
Further information on the project is available at:

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Till now, the project achieved the following results:
(1) identification of the Protected Areas (PA) research and knowledge needs and of the main conservation challenges, through a series of interviews and questionnaires with PA personnel and technical staff;
(2) identification of the characteristics, relevance and uniqueness of the network of PAs included in the project and of its possible extensions;
(3) definition of a set of Storylines, narratives stimulated by specific ecological challenges posed by climate and anthropogenic pressures on the PA ecosystems
(4) identification/collection/retrieval of the relevant Remote Sensing and In-Situ data needed for the Storylines and development of the Remote Sensing products needed to address the main challenges highlighted in the Storylines. Such products are made available to partners on a dedicated FTP server and a system of archives;
(5) identification of the strategies to quantify ongoing changes in PAs and of the data needed for this purpose;
(6) development and preliminary implementation of ecosystem models needed to describe ecosystem dynamics and ecosystem services, able to include uncertainty estimations;
(7) definition of the climate and land-use change scenarios, including the implementation of climate downscaling procedures, for driving the ecosystem models;
(8) identification of the Essential Variables needed to effectively describe ecosystem and ecosystem service changes in different PAs.
(9) establishment of a network of scientific collaborations with other projects/programmes to allow sharing knowledge, data and results;
(10) dissemination of the aims and goals of the project at multiple levels and for different audiences, including the organization of three Science Schools for Master and Doctorate students and PostDocs.
What are the ECOPOTENTIAL Storylines?
To address the main ecological challenges faced by Protected Areas, ECOPOTENTIAL scientific partners defined a number of narratives (the Storylines), which contextualize the project workflow in particular ecological, management and policy settings. A Storyline links real-life issues with research questions. The Storylines specify the needs for Earth Observation for ecosystem modelling, services, cross-scale analysis, demands for future protections, policy and capacity building. Each Storyline is focused within at least one Protected Area and it puts the basis for further operational work in the field.
Essential Variables (EV) for ecosystems can be defined as the minimal set of variables that characterize ecosystem state and changes. EVs are also a strong communication and assessment tool that allows scientist and practitioners to have a higher level of understanding of the ecosystem shifts and current states, allowing also for better targeting the monitoring efforts and policy design.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

ECOPOTENTIAL’s view is that ecosystems are “one physical system” with their environment, and they are characterized by strong geosphere-biosphere-anthroposphere interactions across multiple space and time scales. Building on the knowledge gained in individual Protected Areas (PAs) and from Earth Observation data, ECOPOTENTIAL will address cross-scale ecological interactions and geosphere-biosphere interactions from local to continental scales. The project will provide a current view of the PA ecosystems from space, as well as an assessment of the ongoing changes in meteo-climatic, environmental and ecological conditions taking place in the PAs, fostering the use of Remote Sensing observations in nature conservation and ecosystem management.
The project will develop a suite of models to estimate future ecosystem conditions in a targeted set of PAs, using a coherent approach and a standardized set of drivers and modeling tools.
A major impact of ECOPOTENTIAL will be its contribution to storing and making existing Earth Observations usable and interoperable, developing new Remote Sensing products and analysis frameworks, and creating ecosystem-relevant knowledge.
One major output of ECOPOTENTIAL will be the definition of the needs and requirements of future Protected Areas and the upscaling of its results to broader regional and continental scales, developing a methodology that can be extended beyond the selected Protected Areas. An Ecosystem Community of Practice will be initiated, as a contribution to the activities of GEO/GEOSS.
The Virtual Laboratory Platform, an important product developed during the project, will allow access to all the project’s data and results. The project's achievements will be used in developing requirements for future Protected Areas, supporting better decision-making and design of policy and capacity building/knowledge exchange activities.
Appropriate solid science-policy interfaces will be generated to transfer scientific and technological knowledge into citizen information and policy strategies.

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