Enabling the public sector to save money, innovate and make more effective policy decisions by using space technology and data

Case Study: EO DIP – Living Maps for biodiversity and natural capital

General Information

  • Provider: Natural England
  • Technology utilised: Earth observation (EO) – optical and radar
  • Thematic area: Environment
  • End user(s): Defra EO Centre of Excellence


  • 2016

This project was co-funded by SSGP and the Defra EO Centre of Excellence.

Our diversity of grasslands, wetlands, dunes, marshes, and woodland contribute to flood mitigation, carbon storage, clean water, pollination, and are critical to sustaining species diversity.  Knowing where these habitats are in the landscape and their condition is critical to many local, regional and national activities that influence the benefits available. The information available is fragmented, partial, often out of date and unaffordable to collect by field methods alone.

Who was involved?

The research was led by Defra / JNCC, building on the work by NRW, SME Environment Systems with local authorities, national parks, and NGO partners locally.

What earth observation information was used and how?

Living Maps will be created from novel processing methods that will use Sentinel 1 and 2 data together with aerial photography, topographic data, ecological rules, field sources and rapid feedback from community validation.


Added value / improvements by the use of earth observations

The research has produced Living Maps for Norfolk and part of Northumberland NP. The high resolution data they provide has triggered a host of local applications from erosion control and planning green infrastructure, to managing to improve pollination. The maps identify where best to use field effort to add the fine detail needed for managing biodiversity and can be updated flexibly enabling the detection of change in the landscape.

Lessons learned

Recent research has provided a more cost-effective method to produce the maps and parallel forestry and crop mapping make it easier to target the living map process, whilst data access and handling costs will be shared. Next steps for this work are to demonstrate the value of Living Maps by integrating across applications and added efficiencies from greater data sharing, which can be done by collaboration across the Centre of Excellence.

Download the final report