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Temporal transferability of wildlife habitat models: implications for habitat monitoring


Mao-Ning Tuanmu, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, 1405 S. Harrison Road, Suite 115 Manly Miles Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823-5243, USA.


Aim  Temporal transferability is an important issue when habitat models are used beyond the time frame corresponding to model development, but has not received enough attention, particularly in the context of habitat monitoring. While the combination of remote sensing technology and habitat modelling provides a useful tool for habitat monitoring, the effect of incorporating remotely sensed data on model transferability is unclear. Therefore, our objectives were to assess how different satellite-derived variables affect temporal transferability of habitat models and their usefulness for habitat monitoring.

Location  Wolong Nature Reserve, Sichuan Province, China.

Methods  We modelled giant panda habitat with the maximum entropy algorithm using panda presence data collected in two time periods and four different sets of predictor variables representing land surface phenology. Each predictor variable set contained either a time series of smoothed wide dynamic range vegetation index (WDRVI) or 11 phenology metrics, both derived from single-year or multi-year (i.e. 3-year) remotely sensed imagery acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). We evaluated the ability of models obtained with these four variable sets to predict giant panda habitat within and across time periods by using threshold-independent and threshold-dependent evaluation methods and five indices of temporal transferability.

Results  Our results showed that models developed with the four variable sets were all useful for characterizing and monitoring giant panda habitat. However, the models developed using multi-year data exhibited significantly higher temporal transferability than those developed using single-year data. In addition, models developed with phenology metrics, especially when using multi-year data, exhibited significantly higher temporal transferability than those developed with the time series.

Main conclusions  The integration of land surface phenology, captured by high temporal resolution remotely sensed imagery, with habitat modelling constitutes a suitable tool for characterizing wildlife habitat and monitoring its temporal dynamics. Using multi-year phenology metrics reduces model complexity, multicollinearity among predictor variables and variability caused by inter-annual climatic fluctuations, thereby increasing the temporal transferability of models. This study provides useful guidance for habitat monitoring through the integration of remote sensing technology and habitat modelling, which may be useful for the conservation of the giant panda and many other species.