Biological Diversity and Ecological Forecasting Toolkit

Biological diversity, or biodiversity, refers to the variety of all life on Earth—from genes to species, ecosystems, and biomes. Research has shown that global biodiversity has been on the decline. NASA studies how and why global biodiversity is changing, and the effects of these changes on and interactions with Earth’s interrelated systems.

Sensors on a suite of NASA satellites, combined with airborne platforms, in situ observations and models, provide measurements of biodiversity and environmental variables such as vegetation productivity, biomass, habitat suitability, land cover and land use change, aquatic ecology and human interactions with the environment. These long-term observations and models enable scientists to better understand Earth’s global biodiversity and how it is changing.

This toolkit is designed to support research into biodiversity by providing easy access to data and other resources on these topics:

Vegetation | Species Distribution | Human Dimensions | Habitat Suitability | Aquatic Ecology

Discover and Visualize Data

Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Vegetation indices data from Earthdata Search. Earthdata Search is a data discovery and data access application that enables access to NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Applications System (EOSDIS) Earth science data across the Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs).


Vegetation is a primary component of terrestrial biodiversity, playing a critical role in the global energy budget and in many of our biogeochemical cycles. Maintaining species richness ensures the productivity and stability of ecosystem processes, making it critical to monitor vegetation health. Measurements are collected from various remotely sensed parameters, including vegetation indices (or greenness), leaf area, primary productivity, transpiration, canopy height, phenology, and biomass.

Vegetation Indices

Leaf Area Index

Primary Productivity

Evapotranspiration/Evaporative Stress Index

Canopy Height/Forest Structure

Phenology/Land Cover Dynamics

Above Ground Biomass

Data Recipes/Tutorials


Species Distribution

Global biodiversity is threatened by climate change, human interactions with the environment, such as urbanization and habitat conversion, and other factors. Understanding the distribution and movement of species is therefore important for maintaining biodiversity and for protecting species. A combination of both remotely sensed Earth observation data, ground based observations, and model data can be used to determine individual species’ patterns of movement. These observations can help determine the number of species in a defined area (species richness) or assessments of terrestrial biomes in their contemporary, human-altered form (anthropogenic biomes).

Species Richness

Anthropogenic Biomes

Land Surface Reflectance

Data Recipes/Tutorials


Human Dimensions

There are many causes of biodiversity loss, including deforestation, agricultural development, urbanization, pollution, and climate change. Understanding the ways in which humans are interacting with the environment, and how resulting changes impact Earth’s systems is important to preserving biodiversity.


Biodiversity and Protected Areas

Environmental Sustainability and Trends

Nighttime Lights

Data Recipes/Tutorials


Habitat Suitability

Habitat suitability serves as a proxy for species distribution. Models are used to estimate the potentiality of a habitat for a given species by integrating environmental variables, such as land cover type, temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, snow cover and topography, with species presence data.

Land Cover/Land Use

Land Surface Temperature

Atmospheric Temperature


Snow Cover

Soil Moisture


Data Recipes/Tutorials


Aquatic Ecology

Remote sensing data can be used to monitor the state of aquatic ecosystems from space. From algal bloom development to animal migrations, measurements such as chlorophyll concentration, sea surface temperature and salinity are useful for determining habitat suitability. These data can also be incorporated into ocean circulation models and biogeochemistry models to help forecast animal movement.

Ocean Color

Ocean Temperature

Sea Surface Salinity

Data Recipes/Tutorials
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