The effects of man-made creations, human activity, and natural phenomena have increasingly significant influence over one another. Not only does this incite rapidly changing environments, but it significantly affects how we live. Our need and responsibility to monitor these changes and manage their impacts through environmental policy and governance is equally increasingly prominent.
Despite this, a variety of organisations, such as environmental agencies, governments and asset managers, across industries often struggle to address these new responsibilities. With the increasing demand to prove sustainable practices and SDG compliance, it’s becoming harder for organisations to provide evidence on how habitats are impacted by their actions.
In this article, we discuss why habitat mapping is so important, why environmental compliance challenges exist, and how habitat mapping using space data can help solve these issues.
What is habitat mapping and why is it so important?
In broad terms, habitat mapping is the analysis of the distribution and extent of the ecology over a specific survey area. It can also be used to look at the impact of how the land has/is changing over time.
Habitat mapping involves identifying, classifying, and mapping critical natural characteristics of a landscape. It can be used to generate a land cover map indicating habitat borders, identifying critical ecosystems, (such as mangroves or coral reefs), and the present species within both the terrestrial and marine environments.
Understanding the existing species, biodiversity, and sensitive ecosystems within a certain region is necessary for reducing environmental interference during engineering or infrastructure development. By understanding environmental assets through habitat mapping, it’s possible to monitor your carbon footprint, as well as retrospectively offset it, and help ensure sustainable ecotourism.
Overall, this information helps decision-makers understand their landscape, its key metrics, and to consistently analyse any changes. With this information, organisations can track the impact they’re having – both positive and negative – and make more sustainable decisions that serve their environmental goals.
The challenge of environmental compliance
One of the biggest challenges to increasing environmental standards and sustainability practises is compliance. Meeting environmental and sustainability requirements challenges both our abilities to evolve our existing processes and to quantify our environmental impact in any given area.
For example, if an organisation is required to build their coastal tourist attraction without affecting the local marine or terrestrial ecosystems, how do they go about determining the risks to these habitats and how to avoid them?
Often, the biggest barrier standing in their way is technology and data paucity.
Organisations require a huge amount of data about their surrounding environment and their actions, as well as how these two areas interact, in order to answer their sustainability needs. But on the whole, how to gain access to the best version of these data sets is a relatively new consideration. Most organisations don’t have the in-house capability or budgets to get high quality data on a large scale and so it can seem likely a daunting, unachievable task.
How habitat mapping using space technology helps organisations with compliance
Habitat mapping helps organisations extinguish and ambiguity about their natural assets and their surrounding environment. It gives organisations the data they need to not only understand and monitor their impact, but to clearly evidence their actions in accordance with policy compliance.
One of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to understand your environment and what habitats are within it is by analysing satellite imagery from space. Using data from space to map habitats allows organisations to better understand their surroundings, on a country or nationwide basis, without the need to put people on the ground.
This is especially useful if organisations are functioning in inhospitable regions, areas of political uncertainty, or have global locations of interest. The resource required to survey and analyse these areas without satellite assets would be excessively time-consuming, costly, and logistically complex.
But with them, organisations can manage their policy adherence without leaving the office. It also opens the door to concession areas that weren’t previously able to be mapped because of access restrictions – whether because of political reasons or health and safety.
These innovative techniques have carved out clear pathways for organisations to stay on track with their environmental goals. Using this approach, maintaining sustainable activity – from environmental protection during development to reducing pollutant activity – is made easier.
On both an organisational and a global level, it makes achieving goals more realistic and supports the hope for a more sustainable behavioural shift. The use of space data therefore ultimately empowers organisations to implement practises that benefit the planet and people.
The future of habitat mapping
Sustainability is only going to rise in priority and gain more investment from all sectors. Industries therefore need to be able to make decisions that take biodiversity and their surrounding habitats into account. This is the only way they’ll be able to make sustainable, future-proofed business plans that succeed long-term.
As new satellites are frequently launched into space with new sensor technology, data is becoming more detailed, more accurate, and quicker to access. This data will empower more targeted intervention for decision-makers in all industries. Not only for environmental and government agencies, but also for commercial businesses and ESG asset managers.
As data becomes a more central aspect to how businesses and societies function, being tied into our way of life through Smart Cities and IoT, environmental tech is likely to follow. There is the possibility that consistent monitoring and management of environmental considerations will become completely embedded with man-made infrastructure.
Whatever way we implement habitat mapping and the technologies used in creation, it will undoubtedly be increasingly integral to human development going forwards.