Earth observation allows us to monitor our environment globally and continuously. The extensive body of information supplied by the various Earth observation missions permits identifying short and long-term changes in ecosystems and assessing the condition of arable land, forests as well as protected areas. Changes may be down to natural causes like severe storms, but they may also be man-made where land is claimed for building or farming purposes, or where pollutants or greenhouse gases are released in the air.
Human exploitation influences not only the atmosphere and the surface of the land; oceans and inland waters are similarly subject to extensive changes caused, for example, by ship traffic or fishing. Human influence is particularly evident in the melting of ice caps and glaciers as well as the shrinking of permafrost areas in the polar regions and high mountain ranges. Satellite-based Earth observation, which enables changes to be monitored accurately, supports decision-makers in politics and business in taking remedial action.