Monitor indicators of genetic diversity from space using Earth Observation data

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Meredith Christine Schuman , Claudia Röösli, Alicia Mastretta Yanes, Katie Millette, Isabelle Helfenstein, Wolke Tobón-Niedfeldt, Cristiano Vernesi, Clement Albergel, Ghassem R Asrar, Linda Laikre, Michael E Schaepman


Use Earth Observation (EO) for monitoring and re-
porting on the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity
Framework (GBF) indicators of genetic diversity. EO
has high potential and practical importance for advancing
biodiversity monitoring within the GBF. We propose
that these advances are artificially limited by the consensus
that genetic variation cannot be observed from space.
Here, we explain how EO can also advance genetic diversity
monitoring within the GBF, especially by helping to develop
the headline and complimentary indicators of genetic diver-
sity recently adopted at the 15th Conference of the Parties
to the CBD (COP15). Ahead of the 2024 COP and the pre-
ceding meeting of its Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Tech-
nical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), we propose that
EO should be rapidly integrated into genetic diversity moni-
toring workflows, to accelerate the ongoing development of
these indicators while helping Parties to fulfill their reporting
The genetic variation distributed across the individuals and
populations of Earth’s species is essential for their adapta-
tion and persistence in changing environments, and for the
maintenance of biodiversity. Its importance is recog-
nized within the monitoring framework of the GBF adopted
at COP15, which includes a headline indicator on the
maintenance of genetic diversity in species populations. Yet
despite rapid advances in sequencing technology, it remains
laborious and expensive to monitor changes in genetic diver-
sity by repeatedly sampling populations and sequencing their
DNA. Fortunately, the COP15 headline indicator and other
key indicators of genetic diversity can be assessed based on
information about species populations inferred from local
knowledge, field surveys, and other sources, and do not nec-
essarily require genetic sequence data. This rep-
resents a useful but indirect means of genetic diversity assess-
ment, and additional biodiversity observation data is needed
to improve indicator quality. Here, we present a frame-
work and show examples for how existing, public data from
EO satellites can provide complementary biodiversity obser-
vations that could immediately be used to improve monitor-
ing and reporting on indicators of genetic diversity.
EO is generally not considered for genetic diversity assess-
ment because genetic information cannot be retrieved eas-
ily or directly from satellite observations. However, EO
products can directly help countries to locate and delineate
species populations, and monitor their change over time. We
not only show how EO can facilitate genetic diversity mon-
itoring as implemented within the GBF, but also look ahead
to potential EO contributions in the assessment of genetic Es-
sential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs). We call for the advis-
ing of Parties on how to use existing EO products for genetic
diversity monitoring and for the co-development and dissem-
ination of accessible tools.



Biodiversity, Life Sciences


convention on biological diversity (CBD), Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF)


Published: 2023-09-15 11:17


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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