Biodiversity monitoring in the field is very time-consuming and expensive. For this reason, little is known about biodiversity and how it is changing, especially in regions that are difficult to access. Hope rests in space-based satellite monitoring to continuously record biodiversity around the world.
Anna Schweiger from the University of Zurich and Etienne Laliberté from the University of Montréal show that this should work, at least for plant biodiversity. “Our study will help to determine changes in the biodiversity of plant communities effectively and reliably via satellite in the foreseeable future,” said the researcher, according to a statement from her university. “With targeted field work, causes and consequences could then be analyzed and hopefully negative consequences counteracted in good time.”
For the study, the researchers rely on image spectrometer data from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), which collects ecological and climatic observation data across the entire North American continent – from the arctic tundra to tropical forests. With the help of a so-called spectral diversity index, it was possible to determine the plant diversity at landscape level, the so-called beta diversity.
For alpha diversity, local diversity within plant communities, accuracy depended on plant size and density. In this way, the diversity within forest ecosystems with closed canopies could be determined well, but not in open grassland.
In order to close this gap, according to the researchers, spectrometer data could be used by drones, for example, which allow a higher spatial resolution. According to them, the greatest possible benefit can be obtained from spectroscopic methods if the strengths of satellites, drones, aircraft and satellites are combined.