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Summary of Working Group Proceedings
Co-Chairs: Eleanor Sterling and Marsha Sitnik


The Co-Chair of the Working Group opened the meeting by explaining the mission of the group as it related to the other three working groups, especially with regard to the working group whose focus was on measuring and monitoring global biodiversity and the working group dealing with priority setting for biodiversity conservation. She presented a draft of goals for the two days, then reviewed the white paper and guided the group to think of urgent issues and opportunities that the use of NASA technology could address in measuring and monitoring biodiversity at the ecoregional and site levels.

Discussion of Issues

Several issues of mutual interest emerged, such as deforestation, introduction of exotic species, the lack of availability of remote-sensing data from countries of high biodiversity, the dearth of ground-based data from these countries, the need for more professionals' working towards biodiversity conservation in many developing countries, and the importance of focusing attention on non-rainforest ecosystems.

How to Address the Issues

The group was charged to develop, by the second day, a short list of suggested pilot projects that met the four criteria stated in the prepared background materials:

  1. Pilot projects should address issues of concern to conservation biology;

  2. Pilot projects should lend themselves to the utilization of NASA technology, information, and/or networks;

  3. Pilot projects should show results within one year of getting started; and

  4. Pilot projects should seek to be broadly applicable.

Participants suggested that global initiatives, such as the International Year of the Coral Reef (1997) and International Year of the Ocean (1998) could be used to highlight potential pilot projects over the next year.

Discussion then ensued on the project(s) that had been drafted by the Steering Committee and their importance and how they met the criteria and goals. Ideas for how to address the pilot projects included: by biomes, regionally, issue-based, assessment-oriented, or management-related. Three overarching questions emerged from this discussion: 1) How can remote-sensing data help assess the health or lack of health of terrestrial and marine habitats at different spatial and temporal scales? 2) What is the relationship between non-woody species richness and composition and remote sensing-based characterization of vegetative habitat? 3) How can we improve access to remote-sensing data and increase NGO ability to effectively use these data towards biodiversity conservation?

Recommended Pilot Project Characteristics

Much discussion occurred about what the group thought was needed from NASA by the conservation community in order to answer the important questions that face us. The group felt that it should develop practical, one-year projects that have conservation implications and provide tools for natural resource planning and management. Some constraint was felt at developing pilot projects that stopped short of conservation and management considerations but the structure of the workshop, with four individual working groups, required certain lines to be drawn in the discussion and proposed projects. Support was shown for choosing a project related to forest and general vegetation cover, one addressing coral reef conservation, and one dealing with urban issues, as these were seen as high profile. Training was thought to be important as was a focus on ground-truthing. It was pointed out that one year did not allow for a time series, but information from NASA representatives informed the group that a 3-4 year duration was not unusual for NASA projects. The group decided to develop at least one project with a product in one year.

Participants suggested several new projects and by the second session the group was considering five. Proponents of each project explained their importance and how they met the criteria and goals. The Chair advised that NASA would only be able to choose one from each group, but the members could not determine that any one was of more importance than all the others. The Chair broke the group into subsets to develop one-page descriptions with budgets and an emphasis on regional and site-based measuring and monitoring.

This working group was one of the largest and represented diverse views. Participation by NASA staff in the discussion was invaluable for technical application questions. A NASA representative presented a viewgraph with NASA satellite launch dates and another advised on existing data sets. The group saw value in the relationship with NASA apart from the pilot projects and recommended that NASA appoint someone to be a link between MTPE and the conservation community. It was recommended that NASA invite representatives from the workshop to attend training at the University of Maryland in remote sensing technology.

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