Our poor understanding of terrestrial ecosystems and their biogeochemical and biogeophysical feedbacks with the Earth System severely limits our ability to make accurate predictions about the future of our home planet. To make the sort of policy-relevant predictions that society asks of us, our science desperately needs more data about the composition, functioning, and structure of terrestrial ecosystems. Unfortunately, our current in-situ observation networks are too sparse, too spatially biased, and too ad-hoc to make significant progress. Only observations from space can provide the dense, frequent, spatially and temporally extensive records required. However, we have also reached the limits of what is possible with the generation of space-based sensors currently in orbit (e.g. Landsat and MODIS). One exception being the just recently launched Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2), which will provide more data in a day about atmospheric CO2 concentrations than the existing in-situ network produces in a year. Also, due to one of the most important discoveries in Earth science in the past decade, OCO-2 will serendipitously provide global maps of solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence, a proxy for vegetation productivity.
The focus of this study is exploring new multi-instrument approaches to doing ecosystem science from space. We will frame this more general topic around the amazing opportunity that in a few years, we could have simultaneous observations of ecosystem structure, functioning, and composition from the International Space Station (ISS).