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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Computer Science - Ecology

Mapping Migratory Bird Prevalence Using Remote Sensing Data Fusion
Published: Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Author: Anu Swatantran et al.

by Anu Swatantran, Ralph Dubayah, Scott Goetz, Michelle Hofton, Matthew G. Betts, Mindy Sun, Marc Simard, Richard Holmes

Background

Improved maps of species distributions are important for effective management of wildlife under increasing anthropogenic pressures. Recent advances in lidar and radar remote sensing have shown considerable potential for mapping forest structure and habitat characteristics across landscapes. However, their relative efficacies and integrated use in habitat mapping remain largely unexplored. We evaluated the use of lidar, radar and multispectral remote sensing data in predicting multi-year bird detections or prevalence for 8 migratory songbird species in the unfragmented temperate deciduous forests of New Hampshire, USA.

Methodology and Principal Findings

A set of 104 predictor variables describing vegetation vertical structure and variability from lidar, phenology from multispectral data and backscatter properties from radar data were derived. We tested the accuracies of these variables in predicting prevalence using Random Forests regression models. All data sets showed more than 30% predictive power with radar models having the lowest and multi-sensor synergy (“fusion”) models having highest accuracies. Fusion explained between 54% and 75% variance in prevalence for all the birds considered. Stem density from discrete return lidar and phenology from multispectral data were among the best predictors. Further analysis revealed different relationships between the remote sensing metrics and bird prevalence. Spatial maps of prevalence were consistent with known habitat preferences for the bird species.

Conclusion and Significance

Our results highlight the potential of integrating multiple remote sensing data sets using machine-learning methods to improve habitat mapping. Multi-dimensional habitat structure maps such as those generated from this study can significantly advance forest management and ecological research by facilitating fine-scale studies at both stand and landscape level.

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