07 Oct 2022

Geospatial portal simplifies freshwater ecosystems monitoring to track progress towards climate goals

In the last 300 years, 85% of wetlands have disappeared and one-fifth of the world’s river basins are now seeing significant changes in water levels, either due to flooding or the drying up of lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, floodplains and seasonal water bodies1.

This is why monitoring changes to water bodies over time is fundamental when the goal is to protect and restore freshwater ecosystems. Indeed, this goal ranks high on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, where all 193 Member States have committed to conserving ecosystems for our sustainable future. Achieving this goal with the help of relevant data enables decision-makers to set actionable management objectives.

In 2017, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) requested freshwater ecosystems data from the UN Member States. The objective was to create a baseline for countries to monitor their progress in protecting and restoring their country’s water-related ecosystems. But it was clear that monitoring ecosystem changes was completely new to many, and getting related data was going to be an uphill task.

Using Earth observation technology to collect dynamic freshwater data

To simplify this process for Member States, UNEP used Earth observation technology to generate up-to-date geospatial data depicting the extent of freshwater ecosystems change over time in every country worldwide. The data – which can be visualised and downloaded at national, sub-national and basin levels – is freely available on the Freshwater Ecosystems Explorer now maintained and updated annually with new freshwater data by UNEP-DHI. Countries could then indicate approval of the data collected, eliminating the need for them to gather this data independently.

Learn more about the platform here.


1 Source: Progress on Freshwater Ecosystems: Global Indicator 6.6.1 Updates and Acceleration Needs 2021


The UNEP-DHI Centre on Water and Environment is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) centre of expertise, dedicated to improving the management, development and use of freshwater resources from the local to the global level. The UNEP-DHI Centre operates by drawing on DHI’s technical expertise in water and project implementation, and has attained global recognition for its work in promoting sustainable water resources management and supporting the water-related SDG targets.