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European satellite imagery sharpens focus of UN biodiversity initiative

Just as the extraordinary biodiversity found on the Galapagos Islands helped shape our understanding of natural selection, the unique ecosystems of the area have more recently been helping European researchers map the delicate relationship between ocean temperatures and species survival.

The European Space Agency’s Medspiration project is using satellite imagery to provide reliable temperature analysis of biodiversity hotspots around the world in support of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD). The maps are being made available online in near real-time, providing researchers with a unique resource in their efforts to significantly reduce biodiversity loss by 2010.
Medspiration is a European initiative to synthesise data measured from several different satellite systems into a single data set detailing sea surface temperature (SST). Starting from the beginning of the year, it has been integrated into a broader effort by ESA to support UNCBD in Central America. Specifically, researchers are drawing on this one-of-a-kind tool to better understand migration patterns from the Galapagos and Cocos Islands. The technology being used by Medspiration to map the islands located in the Pacific Ocean is able to produce high-resolution images of the Earth’s surface measuring a mere two metres square.
The SST maps are a single component of a series of Earth observation products ESA provides signatories to the UN convention. Other services include Mesoamerican biological corridor change detection maps, coral reef maps, ocean water quality monitoring services, mangrove maps as well as a map of dry lands.
Medspiration has a proven track record of expertise through its association with the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE) High-Resolution Sea Surface Temperature Pilot Project (GHRSST-PP), a global initiative to address long-term challenges faced by our oceans. European-funded research and satellite technology have factored prominently in the development of the SST maps thanks to information gathered by the Advanced Along Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) aboard ESA‘s Envisat satellite.
Medspiration has leveraged on the expertise of the different satellite programmes located throughout Europe, including the Italian National Research Council (CNR), France’s Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS), the Southampton Oceanography Centre, the UK-based VEGA company, Meteo-France‘s Centre for Space Meteorology, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER), the France-based Actimar firm and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.
(Source EC-Europa)