How remote sensing choices influence ecosystem services monitoring and evaluation results of ecological restoration interventions

Trinidad del Río-Mena, L. Willemen*, A. Vrieling, A. Nelson

*Corresponding author for this work

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Large-scale ecological restorations are recognized worldwide as an effective strategy to combat environmental degradation and promote sustainability. Remote sensing (RS) imagery, such as obtained from Landsat and Sentinel-2 satellites, can provide spatial, spectral, and temporal information on ecosystem service supply to support monitoring and evaluation of restoration interventions. However, because of the abundance of satellite data and methodological analysis options, choices in data selection and processing options need to be made. This study explored the effect of RS choices on the evaluation of changes in ecosystem services as a result of ecological restoration interventions. Using the ecosystem service of forage provision for wildlife as an example, we used a before-after-control-impact (BACI) analysis to compare how the following choices affected restoration evaluation outcomes: a) different number of control pixels; b) different spatial distribution of control pixels; c) intra-annual image selection; and d) different reference periods. In addition, e) we evaluated the effect of using two different satellite sensor types, using the ecosystem service ‘erosion prevention’ as an example. We explored the effect of these five choices for restoration sites in the Baviaanskloof, South Africa. Results showed that the choice of intra-annual image selection, and the reference period describing the ‘before state’ had a strong effect on the outcomes, often leading to opposite BACI evaluation results. BACI results were less sensitive to choices related to the number of control points in the evaluation. The impact of methodological choices on the BACI outcomes was greater for the less degraded areas of our study site. Satellite sensor choice resulted in similar temporal trajectories of estimated supply. We demonstrated that RS choices have a strong effect on the evaluation results of restoration interventions. Therefore, we recommend that documenting the key RS choices results is essential when communicating restoration evaluation results in order to properly understand, manage and adapt restoration initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101565
JournalEcosystem services
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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