Uniting technology and ecology in biodiversity conservation

Hit Your BNG Goals

From the air we breathe to the food we eat, biodiversity is intrinsically linked to the healthy functioning of ecosystems. As our own welfare depends on biodiversity doing well, its measurement and conservation is crucial.

Imagine a world without pollinators like bees, birds, and insects. It’s estimated that a third of the world’s crop production depends on them. Apples, cherries, almonds – these fruits would cease to exist without vital pollination services from this diverse set of pollinators. Vanilla orchid flowers can only be pollinated by a few South American bee species, so flowers cultivated for vanilla pods outside of the native range of the bees must be pollinated by hand. Imagine the labor required to pollinate all the world’s flowing crops by hand! Agriculture, too, relies on invertebrates, bacteria, and fungi for maintaining healthy soil, essential for crop growth. But biodiversity’s importance extends beyond agriculture.

Trees, wetlands, and grasslands act as natural barriers, slowing down water and preventing floods. They help to mitigate climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide — cleaning the air we breathe. All species, to greater or smaller degrees, play their part. Consider the coastal protection provided by coral reefs and how mangroves shield coastlines from storms. And think about the medicines and everyday products that originate from plants. They all underline the immense value of biodiversity.


The urgency of biodiversity conservation

Conserving biodiversity is now more critical than ever, given the challenges posed by the changing environment. Globally, COP 15 in 2022 adopted biodiversity framework calling for 30% of land and sea areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and its contributions to people, are conserved by 2030.

The Environment Act of 2021 in the UK embodies this urgency by setting legally binding objectives to protect and revive biodiversity by 2030, including:

  • Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) — developers of new projects must create measurable improvements in natural habitats and species populations.
  • New efficiency targets for air quality, water, waste reduction, and resources.
  • Establishment of a new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) — to oversee and enforce environmental law.
  • Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) and Environment Improvement Plans (EIPs) — to promote nature recovery at the local level.


Empowering with technology

However, conserving biodiversity requires meticulous measurement. Traditional fieldwork, while invaluable, might not be enough to address the monumental task at hand. This is where technology steps in as a powerful ally.

The advent of a huge number of technological solutions is ushering in a revolution in biodiversity measurement and monitoring. For example, multispectral imagery collected from remote sensing (drones, planes, and satellites, heralds a new era in biodiversity measurement at scale. Soon, extremely high-resolution images of most of the globe will be available with weekly or monthly updates and archives. The ability of these cameras to detect wavelengths outside of the visual spectrum of light (hyperspectral) will mean that, in every meaning of the word, we will be able to see more of the planet than ever before. This technology offers an unprecedented view, revolutionizing our ability to perceive biodiversity’s intricate patterns. It enables us to gather data at scales and resolutions previously unimaginable, providing a comprehensive understanding of ecosystems.

But how does technology complement the efforts of ecologists on the ground? It doesn’t replace their work; it augments it. By enhancing efficiency, technology empowers field ecologists to collect data faster, better, and cleaner. Environmental DNA and remote sensing are two technological marvels that play pivotal roles in gathering vast amounts of data quickly, allowing for scalability to meet the immense challenges of biodiversity conservation.


Citizen science and education

Moreover, citizen science is empowered by technology, enabling volunteers to contribute meaningfully to biodiversity data collection. This amplifies the collective effort needed to tackle the crisis facing our planet’s biodiversity.

Thought must be given to educating and inspiring the next generation of citizen volunteers. These efforts will not be possible if individuals are not educated to understand the importance of protecting natural areas and reducing the pressure

on rare species. Without education, information, without raising awareness regarding the importance of protected natural areas, those areas may be lost.

The fusion of technological advancements with the unwavering dedication of ecologists on the ground is indispensable in conserving biodiversity. The UK’s Environment Act 2021 sets a precedent and technology serves as a beacon of hope, enabling us to measure, understand, and conserve biodiversity more effectively than ever before.



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