Coastal environments, the interface between the land and the sea, cover only 10% of the Earth’s surface, yet are disproportionately important to global biodiversity. These zones host some of the most ecologically significant and diverse organisms on the planet; more than 100,000 animal species, over 80% of all marine fish species and over 20% of bird species live in or migrate through these areas. The economic, environmental and social benefits of coastal zones are now estimated at over $50 trillion. These are also some of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet because they are particularly vulnerable to environmental change and climate variability. Remote sensing, particularly high spatial resolution visible-thermal imaging spectroscopy and lidar altimetry, coupled with satellite earth observing missions and in situsensor networks provide the biophysical measurements needed to make river-to-coast assessments of vegetation communities, habitat distribution, ecosystem function and sediment, nutrient and transport.
Remote sensing provides spatial information over large areas, and thus can be used as an integrative tool for surface information, enable us to scale up and down, and across the land-to-ocean interface. However, observations along the land-to-ocean continuum require innovation in sensor deployment and innovations in integration with field sampling. The Arboreal to Benthic Communities (ABC) Land to Ocean Biodiversity Observations Team (LOBO) study is designing an interdisciplinary project to study the biodiversity, habitat connectivity, and biogeochemical processes in the interconnected arboreal, water column, and benthic habitats of a major coastal ecosystem of global importance-the South Florida peninsula from the watershed upstream of the Everglades to the reefs of the Florida Keys. The study brings together terrestrial, fresh water, and marine scientists, integrating science from the watershed to the reefs, and provides guidance for developing and implementing applications for conservation biology and sustainable use of resources.