Essential earth observation variables for high-level multi-scale indicators and policies

Lehmann, A., Mazzetti, P., Santoro, M., Nativi, S., Masò, J., Serral, I., Spengler, D., Niamir, A., et al. (2022). Essential earth observation variables for high-level multi-scale indicators and policies. Environmental Science & Policy 131 105-117. 10.1016/j.envsci.2021.12.024.

[thumbnail of 1-s2.0-S1462901122000338-main (1).pdf]
1-s2.0-S1462901122000338-main (1).pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (8MB) | Preview
Project: The European network for observing our changing planet (ERA-PLANET, H2020 689443), An Ecosystem of Citizen Observatories for Environmental Monitoring (WeObserve, H2020 776740), Coordinating an Observation Network of Networks EnCompassing saTellite and IN-situ to fill the Gaps in European Observations (ConnectinGEO, H2020 641538), ECOPOTENTIAL: IMPROVING FUTURE ECOSYSTEM BENEFITS THROUGH EARTH OBSERVATIONS (ECOPOTENTIAL, H2020 641762)


Several holistic approaches are based on the description of socio-ecological systems to address the sustainability challenge. Essential Variables (EVs) have the potential to support these approaches by describing the status of the Earth system through monitoring and modeling. The different classes of EVs can be organized along the environmental policy framework of Drivers, Pressures, States, Impacts and Responses. The EV concept represents an opportunity to strengthen monitoring systems by providing observations to seize the fundamental dimensions of the Earth system

The Group on Earth Observation (GEO) is a partnership of 113 nations and 134 participating organizations in 2021 that are dedicated to making Earth Observation (EO) data available globally to inform about the state of the environment and enable data-driven decision processes. GEO is building the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, a set of coordinated and independent EO, information and processing systems that interoperate to provide access to EO for users in the public and private sectors. The progresses made in the development of various classes of EVs are described with their main policy targets, Internet links and key references

The paper reviews the literature on EVs and describes the main contributions of the EU GEOEssential project to integrate EVs within the work plan of GEO in order to better address selected environmental policies and the SDGs. A new GEO-EVs community has been set to discuss about the current status of the EVs, exchange knowledge, experiences and assess the gaps to be solved in their communities of providers and users. A set of four traits characterizing an EV was put forward to describe the entire socio-ecological system of planet Earth: Essentiality, Evolvability, Unambiguity, and Feasibility. A workflow from the identification of EO data sources to the final visualization of SDG 15.3.1 indicators on land degradation is demonstrated, spanning through the use of different EVs, the definition of the knowledge base on this indicator, the implementation of the workflow in the VLab (a cloud-based processing infrastructure), the presentation of the outputs on a dedicated dashboard and the corresponding narrative through a story map.

The concept of EV started in the climate sphere and spread to other domains of the earth system but less so in socio-economic activities. More work is therefore needed to converge on a common definition and criteria in order to complete the implementation of EVs in all GEO focus areas. EVs should screen the entire Earth's social-ecological system, providing a trusted and long-term foundation for interdisciplinary approaches such as ecological footprinting, planetary boundaries, disaster risk reduction, and nexus frameworks, as well as many other policy frameworks such as the SDGs

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Earth observations; Essential variables; Indicators; Workflows; Sustainable development goals; Policy
Research Programs: Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA)
Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA) > Novel Data Ecosystems for Sustainability (NODES)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2022 13:35
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2022 13:35

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item