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Remote sensing and the future of landscape ecology

By Adrian C. Newton, Ross A. Hill, Cristian Echeverría, Duncan Golicher, José M. Rey Benayas, Luis Cayuela and Shelley A. Hinsley


Landscape ecology focuses on the analysis of spatial pattern and its relationship to\ud ecological processes. As a scientifi c discipline, landscape ecology has grown rapidly in recent years,\ud supported by developments in GIS and spatial analysis techniques. Although remote sensing data\ud are widely employed in landscape ecology research, their current and potential roles have not been\ud evaluated critically. To provide an overview of current practice, 438 research papers published in\ud the journal Landscape Ecology for the years 2004–2008 were examined for information about use\ud of remote sensing. Results indicated that only 36% of studies explicitly mentioned remote sensing.\ud Of those that did so, aerial photographs and Landsat satellite sensor images were most commonly\ud used, accounting for 46% and 42% of studies, respectively. The predominant application of remote\ud sensing data across these studies was for thematic mapping purposes. This suggests that landscape\ud ecologists have been relatively slow to recognize the potential value of recent developments in\ud remote sensing technologies and methods. The review also provided evidence of a frequent lack\ud of key detail in studies recently published in Landscape Ecology, with 75% failing to provide any\ud assessment of uncertainty or error relating to image classifi cation and mapping. It is suggested\ud that the role of remote sensing in landscape ecology might be strengthened by closer collaboration between researchers in the two disciplines, by greater integration of diverse remote sensing data\ud with ecological data, and by increased recognition of the value of remote sensing beyond land-cover\ud mapping and pattern description. This is illustrated by case studies drawn from Latin America\ud (focusing on forest loss and fragmentation) and the UK (focusing on habitat quality for woodland\ud birds). Such approaches might improve the analytical and theoretical rigour of landscape ecology, and\ud be applied usefully to issues of outstanding societal interest, such as the impacts of environmental\ud change on biodiversity and ecosystem services

Topics: Ecology and Environment
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1177/0309133309346882
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