Earth Observation-Based Ecosystem Services Indicators for National and Subnational Reporting of the Sustainable Development Goals

Remote Sens Environ. 2020 Jul 1;244:1-111796. doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2020.111796.


Decision-making that impacts sustainability occurs at national and subnational levels, highlighting the need for multi-scale Earth observations (EO) and geospatial data for assessing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). EnviroAtlas, developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and partners, provides a collection of web-based, interactive maps of environmental and socio-economic data relevant to the SDGs. EnviroAtlas maps ecosystem services indicators at national, regional, and local extents that can contribute to targets set forth in numerous goals, such as SDG 6 for clean water, SDG 11 for sustainable cities and communities, and SDG 15 for life on land. Examples of EnviroAtlas indicators that provide a way to view spatial inequalities, help fill gaps in environmental indicators, and integrate socio-economic and environmental data for the SDGs are explored herein. Remotely sensed EO data are essential for producing these indicators and informing planning and decision-making for the SDGs at subnational scales. The National Land Cover Dataset is the basis for many EnviroAtlas maps at the national extent, while National Agriculture Imagery Program and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data are used to classify Meter-scale Urban Land Cover in select US metro areas. These 30 meter and 1 meter land cover products are combined with demographic and other geospatial data (remotely sensed and otherwise) to produce integrated indicators that can aid in target setting of the SDGs. Though EnviroAtlas was created for the conterminous US, the methods for indicator creation are transferable, and the open-source code for the EnviroAtlas resource may serve as an example for other nations. Achieving the SDGs means assessing targets and decision-making outcomes at local, regional, and national levels using consistent and accurate data. Geospatial resources like EnviroAtlas that provide open access to indicators based on EO data and allow for assessment at multiple extents and resolutions are critical to broadly addressing national to subnational SDG goals and targets.

Keywords: EnviroAtlas; Geospatial indicators; Green space; SDG; Sustainability.