ESA - Living Planet Symposium

NaTec KRH as guest of the European Space Agency

The Living Planet Symposium was held May 23-27, this year under German auspices in Bonn and with the support of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The event focused on how Earth observation contributes to achievements in science and society, and the ways in which breakthrough technologies and actors are changing the traditional Earth observation landscape. By working across many different sectors and applications, this also opens up new opportunities for an interaction between the public and private sectors.


flower DLR/Lea Adams


Hundreds of presentations on a wide variety of topics were held at the World Conference Center, reporting on ongoing projects, potentials, research goals and application fields. The first two days were devoted to the concept of biodiversity, amongst other topics. In addition to new findings, a possible role of Earth observation in shaping a sustainable future and a resilient society was addressed. In this context, Dr. Carsten Neumann from the GFZ was also present, reporting on NaTec and its activities. Thus, a series of lectures on the resilience of ecosystems was supplemented by the topic of succession and resilience on military training grounds.

It is estimated that up to six percent of the world's terrestrial surface is covered by active or former military training areas. Due to intense disturbance by heavy vehicles, munitions explosions, or regular fires, heterogeneous and temporally variable open landscapes outside of urban or agricultural use have developed over long periods of time. However, their distribution and ecosystem dynamics are poorly described because of their scale, inaccessibility and danger of trespassing. Regarding their potentially high conservation value and thus their possible contribution to the expansion of global protected area networks, such as Natura 2000, these open spaces need to be monitored to gain a better understanding of their processes and dynamics, especially successional and resilience patterns.

flower flower

Dr. Neumann reported on how time series of satellite imagery from the USGS Landsat and ESA Copernicus Sentinel-2 missions were used to map habitat evolution at 15 of these former military training areas in Germany between 1992 and 2018. The Habitat Sampler algorithm enables to derive habitat type probabilities that can be transferred between different sites. This was the first time that natural successional dynamics were contrasted with habitat resilience, which is revealed in the disentanglement of trends and triggers of ecosystem change in satellite imagery. The project has shown that spatiotemporal distributions of successional trajectories from open ground to grasslands and wetlands to scrub, as well as individual life cycle stages of the heath plant Calluna vulgaris, can be mapped quantitatively. Research shows different patterns in habitat lifespan. In particular, there are variations in natural successional dynamics depending on disturbance events, either human-induced (controlled burning, mowing, grazing) or passive dynamic effects (natural fires, senescence). Furthermore, habitat resilience in ecologically dynamic and coexisting successional pathways depends critically on the intensity, timing, and background conditions of management or maintenance, and the natural disturbance regime. The results show that space-based monitoring of habitats provides early indicators to maintain and enhance biodiversity on military training areas in the future. This information can be used to implement advanced conservation and management measures to develop and sustain conservation goals.

images & text by Neumann, Goepfert, DLR