The regional Earth system data lab – an effort to support the Colombian BON

Lina M. Estupinan-Suarez (1, 2) , Fabian Gans (1), Maria C. Londoño (3), Jaime Burbano (3), Carlos A. Sierra (1), Miguel D. Mahecha (1, 4, 5)
1: Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany
2: Department of Geography, Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany
3: Instituto de Recursos Biologicos Alexander von Humboldt, Bogota D.C., Colombia
4: Institute for Geography, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany
5: German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

Colombia is the third most mega biodiverse country and a hotspot for biological conservation. This fact has received much attention and also boosted conservation efforts in times where massive land-use changes reflect the societal needs of a nation that has just ended a more than 50 years old civil conflict. In this spirit, GEO-BON (The Group of Earth Observations – Biodiversity Observation Network), and specifically the Colombian BON, has been setting up regional and national networks for testing and implementing regional monitoring biodiversity strategies since 2015. The Colombia BON is led by the Humboldt Institute and as part of its working plan for 2017-2020 is the development of the data cube for Colombia.

The expected big landscape-scale changes ahead not only threaten biodiversity conservation efforts, but likewise ecosystem functioning and thereby land-atmosphere interactions. In other words: the big question ahead is whether the expected transformations would feedback on regional water and carbon cycles. To analyze processes of this kind, we need a platform for the joint interpretation of spatiotemporal land-surface dynamics and biodiversity data of various sources. The Earth System Data Lab has been identified as a suitable platform to not only combine analysis ready data cubes (ARDs) and other e.g. static data, but where one can directly execute a wide range of user defined functions in the cloud.

Figure description

The ESDL team has therefore teamed-up with the Alexander von Humboldt Institute in Bogotá and the Temple University in Philadelphia to couple the ESDL to other frameworks and start joint analyses that should serve the “functional understanding” of biodiversity in Colombia. Lina Estupinan-Suarez – a long-term co-worker of the Humboldt Institute is now dedicating her PhD thesis to this effort at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry. She analyzes how e.g. seasonal dynamics that are known from a pure climatological point of view, are reflected in the biotic responses of the ecosystems in the region. She uses a wide range of Satellite remote sensing data streams to pinpoint e.g. the bimodal dynamics of land ecosystems in Colombia and how these change e.g. after land-use change or considering the imprint of ENSO phenomena.

“The ESDL is an opportunity to countries with limited computational infrastructure. Facilitating data access and efficient processing is essential for  focusing on immediate but also long-term research questions” says Lina Estupinan-Suarez. ”Although, it is challenging to work across disciplines with multiple sources and big data, this has turned into an urgent necessity for resolving questions caused by rapid changes in ecosystems and climate“.

With her background in geoinformatics and long-term experience in biodiversity research she is well prepared to handle this challenge and has contributed substantially to make the “ESDL Colombia” reality. Now, she wants to understand why certain ecosystems respond more strongly to El Niño events than others and if she can identify the drivers of such spatially varying sensitivities. The project is also an inspiration and “partner in crime” with other activities supported. For instance, NASA has recently supported the project that connects a Decision Support System (DSS)  with Earth Observation data in the context of the Colombia BON. While these projects have a very high resolution target, the ESDL is more focusing on analyzing the temporal dynamics of EBVs across the entire region.