Remote sensing of ecosystem services: A systematic review
Appropriate integration of remote sensing technologies into ecosystem services concepts and practices leads to potential practical benefits for the protection of biodiversity and the promotion of sustainable use of Earth's natural assets. The last decade has seen the rapid development of research efforts on the topic of ecosystem services, which has led to a significant increase in the number of scientific publications. This systematic review aims to identify, evaluate and synthesise the evidence provided in published peer reviewed studies framing their work in the context of spatially explicit remote sensing assessment and valuation of ecosystem services. Initially, a search through indexed scientific databases found 5920 papers making direct and/or indirect reference to the topic of “ecosystem services” between the years of 1960 and 2013. Among these papers, 211 make direct reference to the use of remote sensing. During the search we aimed at selecting papers that were peer-reviewed publications available through indexed bibliographic databases. For this reason, our literature search did not include books, grey literature, extended abstracts and presentations. We quantitatively present the growth of remote sensing applications in ecosystem services’ research, reviewing the literature to produce a summary of the state of available and feasible remote sensing variables used in the assessment and valuation of ecosystem services. The results provide valuable information on how remotely sensed Earth observation data are used currently to produce spatially-explicit assessments and valuation of ecosystem services. Using examples from the literature we produce a concise summary of what has been done, what can be done and what can be improved upon in the future to integrate remote sensing into ecosystem services research. The reason for doing so is to motivate discussion about methodological challenges, solutions and to encourage an uptake of remote sensing technology and data where it has potential practical applications.