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Keywords:

  • Forests;
  • biodiversity;
  • remote sensing;
  • landscape assessment;
  • species diversity;
  • structural diversity;
  • satellite imagery

Several international conventions and agreements have stressed the importance of the assessment of forest biodiversity. However, the methods by which such assessments can be made remain unclear. Remote sensing represents an important tool for looking at ecosystem diversity and various structural aspects of individual ecosystems. It provides a means to make assessments across several different spatial scales, and is also critical for assessments of changes in ecosystem pattern over time. Many different forms of remote sensing are available. While lately the emphasis on laser scanner and synthetic aperture radar data has increased, most work to date has used photographs and digital optical imagery, primarily from airborne and spaceborne platforms. These provide the opportunity to assess different phenomena from the landscape to the stand scale. Remote sensing provides the most efficient tool available for determining landscape-scale elements of forest biodiversity, such as the relative proportion of matrix and patches and their physical arrangement. At intermediate scales, remote sensing provides an ideal tool for evaluating the presence of corridors and the nature of edges. At the stand scale, remote sensing technologies are likely to deliver an increasing amount of information about the structural attributes of forest stands, such as the nature of the canopy surface, the presence of layering within the canopy and presence of (very) coarse woody debris on the forest floor. Given the rate of development in the technology, even greater usage is likely in the future.