Modelling biodiversity

UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) post-2020 targets require governments, companies and managers to capitalize indicators to improve ecosystem accounting. These indicators are derived from diverse sources. Amongst them, geospatial data is becoming increasingly critical. As the ground truth, in-situ data from the European Vegetation Archive (EVA) archive plays a very important role, it provides qualitative but scattered information, with few data points having repeat measurements. By contrast, satellite data are much more available and provide continuous and homogeneous information at coarse resolution.


The concept of Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) initiated by GEO BON has been proposed as a layer between biodiversity observation and biodiversity indicators used in policy making. However, the biodiversity community still lacks a global observing system that revolves around the monitoring of a set of agreed variables essential to the tracking of changes in biological diversity on Earth. Therefore, there is an urgent need for remote sensing-enabled EBVs (RS-enabled EBVs) to fill the spatial and temporal gaps between in-situ observation data of biodiversity from the field. In other words, without remotely sensed systematic and continuous data, a global framework for monitoring biodiversity cannot exist.


The NextGEOSS biodiversity pilot aimed to leverage remote sensing and Earth observation (EO) data with the in situ EBV measurements data to generate RS-enabled EBV products and European habitat suitability maps as new products. The solution aimed to deliver a homogeneous and continuous set of information globally and in particular at European scale, which could be used to develop added value layers such as the habitat maps to improve ecosystem accounting.


To achieve this, the biodiversity pilot had to tackle several challenges:

  •       In situ vegetation data is scattered, has numerous formats, and has to be classified  into standard EUNIS habitat types. 
  •       Define a new spatial model to combine in-situ data and RS data having different resolutions and precisions
  •       Large amount of data to process
  • Create a community portal that enables users to explore the underlying data and to create European habitat suitability maps by selecting specific predictors, such as climate, soil and topography, as well as RS-enabled EBVs  
  • Create a community portal that generates RS-enabled EBV (i.e., Leaf area index) using high resolution data (e.g., Sentinel-2)
Environmental | Climate & Health | Environmental Ecosystems | Pollution

Land | Land Ecosystems | Land Ecosystems | Biodiversity Assessment


Data sets


Data collections


Community portals



The solution

The solution

The developed solution is composed of key building blocks of information, Remote sensed enabled EBVs such as Leaf Area Index (LAI), vegetation phenology and vegetation height. The solution is publicly available through the NEXTGEOSS biodiversity community portals and the NextGEOSS data catalog.


Service Layer Description

RS-enabled EBVs, Habitat Suitability Maps, Community Portals for European Habitat Suitability Modelling:

Community portal to generate RS-enabled EBVs:

  • Generating Leaf area index as RS-enabled EBV
  • Applying high resolution satellite data (Sentinel-2)
  • Generating the RS-EBV product (LAI) at the global scale at desired date


Habitat suitability modelling

Example of habitat suitability modelling over Switzerland from the Biodiversity community portal showing the distribution of the EUNIS habitat type ‘Beech forest on non-acid soils’. The intensity of the colour expressed the level of suitability.


IT needs

The biodiversity pilot team had extensive knowledge concerning analysis of remote sensing data and vegetation science using different approaches at fine and coarse resolution. 

NextGEOSS provided the Biodiversity pilot with:

  •       A data catalog, informing them which in-situ and satellite data was available and where it was available. The platform also simplified the access with an SSO (TBC)
  •       A sand box: an complete ecosystem to integrate the code developed by the pilot including user management, analytics and user feedback functions.

·       Cloud processing and storage capacity


Biodiversity monitoring and mapping

Interface of the generating RS-enabled EBVs from the Biodiversity community portal


What are our users saying about the NextGEOSS user experience?

The work with the NextGEOSS infrastructure deepened our understanding of how we can use cloud computing to better leverage remote sensing data and Earth observation systems.

Dr Elnaz Neinavaz talks about her experience using NextGEOSS

University of Twente talks about their experience using NextGEOSS

Dr Sander Mucher talks about his experience using NextGEOSS


Wageningen Environmental Research

Wageningen Environmental Research (WENR), part of  Wageningen University & Research is a public research institute in Wageningen, The Netherlands. It is located in a region of the Netherlands known as the Food Valley. WUR consists of Wageningen University and the former agricultural research institute of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture.


WENR is the research institute for our green environment and part of  Wageningen University and Research (WUR). WENR offers a combination of practical and scientific research in a multitude of disciplines related to the environment and the sustainable use of it. WENR is renowned for its interdisciplinary approach to research and its ability to translate fundamental scientific developments and insights into applicable solutions, particularly in the context of sustainable development. WENR’s mission is to provide outstanding science, education and consultancy in the Geoinformation, to advance scientific frontiers, to improve Earth Observation practices, especially with regard to Biodiversity and agriculture monitoring, and to advise on sustainable and equitable policies.

The University of Twente

The University of Twente (UT) is a public technical university located in Enschede, the Netherlands. ITC was founded as an independent institute in 1950 and became one of the six Faculties of UT in 2010. Its principal mission is to assist developing countries in the process of human resource development in geo-information science and earth observation and applications for natural resources, water resources, urban and regional planning, earth systems analysis, and geospatial data management. Natural resources department uses EO data, and spatial information in combination with systems modelling, geo-information science and remote sensing for the assessment, monitoring, planning, and management of natural resources, for their sustainable use, development, and restoration under global change a major component in research is spatial ecology and specifically biodiversity studies that encompass knowledge in three domains: EO and geo-information processing technologies relevant to biodiversity; the geospatial processes playing a role in biodiversity; and how the communities associated with biodiversity can access and exploit new knowledge and innovation.

The benefits of the pilot

Economic: The NextGEOSS Biodiversity pilot provides an operational platform by means of cloud computing and satellite-based applications that are technically feasible and economically viable and sustainable for biodiversity monitoring.


Environmental: RS-enabled EBVs provide continuous information to improve ecosystem accounting.


Regulatory: RS-enabled EBVs can be used by policy makers to get ecosystem indicators at different scales.


Scientific: The pilot already demonstrates the use of RS-enabled EBVs for habitat distribution modelling (HDM). More than 1,5 million vegetation observation plot data (derived from the EVA database) are being used for modelling the European suitability of about 140 EUNIS habitats. The MAXENT model can be executed using a selection of a maximum of 30 predictors (comprising 7 climate parameters, 7 soil parameters, and 13 RS-enabled EBVs)”.The results are important for European ecosystem accounting

The biodiversity community portal for habitat suitability modelling

The biodiversity community portal for habitat suitability modelling is currently restricted to a large part of Europe (EEA member countries, plus the United Kingdom).


Read more about biodiversity

Biodiversity habitat modelling community portal

Remote sensing enabled  Essential Biodiversity Variables community portal

Biodiversity on NextGEOSS data hub

Biodiversity on NextGEOSS website