Radar vision in the mapping of forest biodiversity from space

Soyeon Bae, Shaun R. Levick, Lea Heidrich, Paul Magdon, Benjamin F. Leutner, Stephan Wöllauer, Alla Serebryanyk, Thomas Nauss, Peter Krzystek, Martin M. Gossner, Peter Schall, Christoph Heibl, Claus Bässler, Inken Doerfler, Ernst Detlef Schulze, Franz Sebastian Krah, Heike Culmsee, Kirsten Jung, Marco Heurich, Markus FischerSebastian Seibold, Simon Thorn, Tobias Gerlach, Torsten Hothorn, Wolfgang W. Weisser, Jörg Müller

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    Recent progress in remote sensing provides much-needed, large-scale spatio-temporal information on habitat structures important for biodiversity conservation. Here we examine the potential of a newly launched satellite-borne radar system (Sentinel-1) to map the biodiversity of twelve taxa across five temperate forest regions in central Europe. We show that the sensitivity of radar to habitat structure is similar to that of airborne laser scanning (ALS), the current gold standard in the measurement of forest structure. Our models of different facets of biodiversity reveal that radar performs as well as ALS; median R² over twelve taxa by ALS and radar are 0.51 and 0.57 respectively for the first non-metric multidimensional scaling axes representing assemblage composition. We further demonstrate the promising predictive ability of radar-derived data with external validation based on the species composition of birds and saproxylic beetles. Establishing new area-wide biodiversity monitoring by remote sensing will require the coupling of radar data to stratified and standardized collected local species data.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number4757
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalNature Communications
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2019


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