An introduction to GEOEssential for creating Essential Variables workflows for resource efficiency and environmental management

By Anthony Lehmann and the GEOEssential consortium

Project Overview
The temptation is great, when defining SDGs or other integrated environmental indicators, to reinvent the wheel instead of using existing initiatives and data available for instance through the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) or Copernicus services. From an Information, Communication and Technology perspective, data interoperability and standardization is critical to improve data access and exchange. Efforts are being made to monitor the state of the environment with Essential Variables (EVs), for instance in the area of biodiversity, water, and climate. EVs are defined by ConnectinGEO as “a minimal set of variables that determine the system’s state and developments, are crucial for predicting system evolution, and allow to define metrics that measure the trajectory of the system”.

GEOEssential is addressing the need for trusted sources of data and information to monitor the progresses made on environmental conditions towards policy targets. The project will demonstrate the generality of the Essential Variables concept across GEO Societal Benefit Areas. It will create cross-thematic workflows to evaluate, predict and monitor natural resources to inform via Earth Observations environmental policies such as the Sustainable Development Goals. Existing structures and platforms will be analysed in order to identify substantial gaps and synergies for addressing the needs of environmental policy in agriculture, soil, water, biodiversity, energy, light and raw materials.


GEOEssential is based on and is going beyond the outputs of the ConnectinGEO project that identified key gaps in the definition of GEO Essential Variables. The GEOEssential project is addressing Strand 2 of the ERA-Planet project (Resource efficiency and environmental management), but it is also clearly connected to the three other Strands through their common data infrastructure.

The project objective is to build concrete demonstration workflows that will be using Essential Variables served by the GEO infrastructure to derive policy relevant indicators. This goal-driven methodology is split in several work packages that are closely interlinked.

WP1 (CNR) from data to knowledge (CNR) will build the technical infrastructure of the project and its knowledge base. A core function of the Knowledge Base (KB) is to facilitate the linkage between societal goals and targets to EVs. The targets are connected to indicators that are report cards for the progress towards the targets and planning tool for measures to achieve the targets. EVs need to be monitored in order to allow a quantification of the indicators.

WP2 (CREAF) on Stakeholder engagement is going beyond the outputs of the ConnectinGEO project ( that identified key gaps in the definition of GEO EVs. A clear demonstration of their implementations and their extensions to other SBAs will be performed trough GEOEssential. Furthermore, the identification of inherent cross-thematic EVs will be identified.

WP3 (GFZ) will build EVs online services that are essential for an efficient use and further acceptance of EVs service and their derived products across disciplines and use cases. Currently the situation surrounding Copernicus data services and EVs service products is not widely known.

WP4 (SGN) is focusing on Biodiversity and Ecosystem workflows at Global, Pan-European, National and Local case studies, with a special focus on the use of Copernicus products, national and regional biodiversity information systems and data portals.

WP5 (UNIGE) on Extractive industry & light monitoring will demonstrate the use of EO products methods, tools, information and services in these fields to define new EVs candidates and analyse the impacts of these activities on existing EVs.

WP6 (IIASA) on the Food, and Energy Nexus will contribute to the knowledge base infrastructure with the determination of the required EVs considering the related European policies, SDGs and modelling requirements.

WP7 (UNIGE) will build the GEOEssential Dashboard

The GEOEssential Dashboard will be the visual front-end, exposing the major outputs/results of the different thematic workflows on biodiversity, ecosystems, extractives, night light, and the food-water-energy nexus, while using the GEOSS platform capacities. The GEOEssential Dashboard will use as much as possible the GEOSS platform tools such as the GEOSS API, GEOSS View, GEOSS Mirror and GEOSS Widget.

Virtual Laboratory

The Project will develop the GEOEssential Virtual Laboratory (GVL) the main objective of which is to generate executable workflows from conceptual workflows stored in a dedicated knowledge base. Through the GVL, model developers will be able to upload new models in the knowledge base, providing the description of the related scientific business process, and either the source/ object code or the web service endpoint for the implementation of the required algorithms. On the other hand, end-users will be able to run existing workflows to generate Essential Variables and indicators, just selecting input data and algorithm versions. The GVL will setup all the required interoperability arrangements in an automated or semi-automated way, greatly simplifying data discovery, data transformation and data use through workflow execution. The GVL functionalities will be exposed through a GUI for human-to-machine interaction and through standard service interfaces and APIs for machine-to-machine interaction.


The Coordinator (Prof. Anthony Lehmann, is responsible for the overall coordination of the project and the official liaison with the ERA-Planet Board. Prof. Lehmann has previous experience of coordinating the 30-partners FP7 enviroGRIDS project, as well as key role (work package leader) in several others (FP7 ACQWA, FP7 PEGASO). Prof. Lehmann is active through research, teaching and publications in the fields of biodiversity and ecosystem services modelling, hydrological modelling, Nexus approaches, Geographic information systems and spatial data infrastructures, statistical modelling, that are all now converging toward the assessment of Sustainable Development Goals. He is leading the enviroSPACE laboratory ( at the University of Geneva and is vice–director of the Institute of Environmental Sciences (