H2020 European project "ECOPOTENTIAL"

Ecosystems are the product of the interaction between the biosphere and the geosphere, between living organisms and the physical, chemical and geological environment. Ecosystems are complex systems where dynamics and thermodynamics are determined by the fluxes of matter, energy and information across the biosphere, the soil, the lithosphere, the oceans and the atmosphere. The whole planet is a large-scale system controlled by the solar radiation impinging on it, by biogeochemical cycles, by the water cycle, by the movements inside the planet crust, mantle and core, by oceanic and atmospheric motions.

Terrestrial and marine ecosystems provide essential goods and services to human societies. In the last decades, however, anthropogenic pressure has caused serious threat to ecosystem integrity, functions and processes. Knowledge-based conservation, management and restoration policies are thus urgently needed, in order to improve ecosystem benefits in face of increasing pressures. Fundamental to all these is effective monitoring and modelling of the state and trends in ecosystem conditions and services. Best use should be made of existing and incoming Earth Observation and field monitoring data, complemented by appropriate interpretation tools, data services and ecosystem models able to use these data.

The H2020 European project “ECOPOTENTIAL: Improving future ecosystem benefits through Earth Observations” (one of the largest EU projects on ecosystems, with 47 partners and activities for the period 2015-2019) focuses its activities and pilot actions on a targeted set of internationally recognised protected areas (PA) in Europe, European Territories and beyond, including mountain, arid and semi-arid, and coastal and marine ecosystems. Building on the knowledge gained in individual PAs, the ECOPOTENTIAL project will address cross-scale ecological interactions and landscape-ecosystem dynamics at regional to continental scales, using geostatistical methods and the emerging novel approaches in Macrosystems Ecology, which is addressing long-term and large-scale ecological challenges. ECOPOTENTIAL addresses the entire chain of ecosystem-related services, by (a) developing ecosystem data services, with special emphasis on Copernicus services; (b) implementing model output services to distribute the results of the modelling activities; and (c) estimating current and future ecosystem services and benefits, combining ecosystem functions (supply) with beneficiaries needs (demand). In ECOPOTENTIAL all data, model results and acquired knowledge will be made available on common and open platforms, coherent with the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) data sharing principles and fully interoperable with the GEOSS Common Infrastructure (GCI).

Project coordinator: Antonello Provenzale, CNR-IGG

Link to the project web site: www.ecopotential-project.eu