Wetlands have and continue to undergo rapid environmental and anthropogenic modification and change to their extent, condition, and therefore, ecosystem services. In this first part of a two-part review, we provide decision-makers with an overview on the use of remote sensing technologies for the ‘wise use of wetlands’, following Ramsar Convention protocols. The objectives of this review are to provide: (1) a synthesis of the history of remote sensing of wetlands, (2) a feasibility study to quantify the accuracy of remotely sensed data products when compared with field data based on 286 comparisons found in the literature from 209 articles, (3) recommendations for best approaches based on case studies, and (4) a decision tree to assist users and policymakers at numerous governmental levels and industrial agencies to identify optimal remote sensing approaches based on needs, feasibility, and cost. We argue that in order for remote sensing approaches to be adopted by wetland scientists, land-use managers, and policymakers, there is a need for greater understanding of the use of remote sensing for wetland inventory, condition, and underlying processes at scales relevant for management and policy decisions. The literature review focuses on boreal wetlands primarily from a Canadian perspective, but the results are broadly applicable to policymakers and wetland scientists globally, providing knowledge on how to best incorporate remotely sensed data into their monitoring and measurement procedures. This is the first review quantifying the accuracy and feasibility of remotely sensed data and data combinations needed for monitoring and assessment. These include, baseline classification for wetland inventory, monitoring through time, and prediction of ecosystem processes from individual wetlands to a national scale.
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