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Using remote sensing to assess biodiversity

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This review paper evaluates the potential of remote sensing for assessing species diversity, an increasingly urgent task. Existing studies of species distribution patterns using remote sensing can be essentially categorized into three types. The first involves direct mapping of individual plants or associations of single species in relatively large, spatially contiguous units. The second technique involves habitat mapping using remotely sensed data, and predictions of species distribution based on habitat requirements. Finally, establishment of direct relationships between spectral radiance values recorded from remote sensors and species distribution patterns recorded from field observations may assist in assessing species diversity. Direct mapping is applicable over smaller extents, for detailed information on the distribution of certain canopy tree species or associations. Estimations of relationships between spectral values and species distributions may be useful for the limited purpose of indicating areas with higher levels of species diversity, and can be applied over spatial extents of hundreds of square kilometres. Habitat maps appear most capable of providing information on the distributions of large numbers of species in a wider variety of habitat types. This is strongly limited by variation in species composition, and best applied over limited spatial extents of tens of square kilometres.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2001-08-10

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