Woods Hole Research Center scientists using remote sensing tools to predict bird species richness

ery lidar "shot" that penetrates through the canopy. Using this information, researchers can estimate bird diversity through its link with habitat diversity. In the Patuxent study, the lidar metrics were consistently better predictors of biodiversity than those based on the use of LandSat imagery.

Daniel Steinberg, a research assistant who is working on the project, adds, "The instrument we use to acquire the lidar data, known as the Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS), collects literally millions of data points within a small area, and using this data we can actually construct 3-dimensional images of canopy height, elevation, complexity, as well as other metrics of habitat structure."

The study sites in Patuxent Wildlife Refuge were chosen because collaborators in the project had estimated bird species richness across a regular grid, giving the scientists a basis for comparison. This work is currently being extended to the Hubbard Brook LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) site in New Hampshire to explore how well lidar data can aid predictions of the abundance of birds that are habitat specialists - like those that use (for either foraging or nesting) more vertically complex canopies versus shrubs or open areas particularly neotropical migrants that rely on U.S. forests for summer habitat.

Dr. Goetz adds, "We have known for years that habitat diversity is important for many aspects of biological diversity, but it was never before possible to acquire data on habitats over very large areas. With the advent of lidar, particularly on a satellite platform planned for the near future, we will have a valuable new tool for identifying and protecting key biodiversity hotspots while also gathering critical information needed to map and monitor changes in carbon stocks."


Contact: Elizabeth Braun
Woods Hole Research Center

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