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Cracking Humboldts Enigma by Earth Observation



Prime contractor
Organisational Unit
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Implementation progress
07 October 2022

Duration: 12 months


Wet tropical mountains have been considered to hold the holy grail of ecology since life forming processes are compressed and can be studied in detail. However, since Alexander von Humboldt’s discovery of compressed life zones, science has evolved into specialised disciplines and the causality in mechanisms and processes driving ecology or biodiversity has remained a riddle. It is the data gap at the forest community level that has hampered solving the conundrum. The present idea posits that earth observation in the form of Essential Biodiversity Variable (EBV) related remote sensing biodiversity products (EBV-RS) can untangle the riddle. EBV-RS is a cornerstone in ESA's flagship strategy on biodiversity. Prins has made early work on the issue and the fundamental RS forest community mapping as part of an extensive botanical survey on a pristine global biodiversity hotspot on Borneo. This concept platform can provide a textbook example of untangling Humboldts enigma that will significantly advance the understanding of ecology, meanwhile identifying key EBV-RS products that can be widely used for assessing and monitoring biodiversity hotspots. Sentinel 1 and 2 data will be used to map forest communities under pristine conditions and analyse their functional traits via biophysical indices and spectroscopy. This will firsthand untangle if forest communities polygenic out branching is driven by spectroscopy or biophysical traits. This will show that plant communities are driven by niche conservatism (climate and soils). The elevational analysis will show a mid-elevation richness hump in polygenetic diversity that is driven by the kick-in of the mass elevated condensation that triggers soil development and eventually forest community richness. These are the basic secrets behind the Humboldt riddle. With this, the concept will be a solver to answer an array of key ecological questions – including life forming and maintaining processes.

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CRACKING HUMBOLTS ENIGMA BY EARTH OBSERVATION - Discovery Ideas Channel Studies evaluation 2022-03