Recent international scientific developments in remote sensing are rapid and significant, leading to the distribution of spatial, quantitative data on relevant eco-hydrological parameters for the entire globe. Working with a team of international experts as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), SIG helped write a white paper focused on the greater Mekong region. This paper defined a standard set of hydrological ecosystem service (HESS) indicators and demonstrate how integrated state-of-the-art remote sensing and hydrological models can be put to use to quantify and value these services.

These indicators ranged from provisions like natural livestock feed production, to cultural services like leisure, to regulating functions such as sustaining rainfall, carbon sequestration and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Current systems for accounting for these ecosystem services were then summarized, and then state-of-the-art methods for assessing these HESS’s and their tradeoffs under different development scenarios were defined, in large part due to SIG expertise in this domain.

Such state-of-the-art methods include remote sensing data from satellites, hydrological simulation models, and operational processing systems that can download data, couple remote sensing and models, and disseminate the output of these models to stakeholders through an online platform. In total, such information is essential for achieving a balanced and healthy agro-ecological system. By relying on tools in the public domain and leveraging HESS data through online information platforms, this white paper is an excellent example of current efforts supported by WLE Greater Mekong to stimulate uptake of ecosystem services assessments in decision-making processes.

The full report, written by SIG and partners, is called “Bridging the Quantitative Information Gap using Remote Sensing and Hydrological Models” and can be downloaded here.