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Evaluating MODIS data for mapping wildlife habitat distribution

Publication Abstract

Vina, A., S. Bearer, H.M. Zhang, Z.Y. Ouyang, and Jianguo Liu. 2008. "Evaluating MODIS data for mapping wildlife habitat distribution." Remote Sensing of Environment, 112(5): 2160-2169.

Habitat distribution models have a long history in ecological research. With the development of geospatial information technology, including remote sensing, these models are now applied to an ever-increasing number of species, particularly those located in areas in which it is logistically difficult to collect habitat data in the field. Many habitat studies have used data acquired by multi-spectral sensor systems such as the Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM), due mostly to their availability and relatively high spatial resolution (30 m/pixel). The use of data collected by other sensor systems with lower spatial resolutions but high frequency of acquisitions has largely been neglected, due to the perception that such low spatial resolution data are too coarse for habitat mapping. In this study we compare two models using data from different satellite sensor systems for mapping the spatial distribution of giant panda habitat in Wolong Nature Reserve, China. The first one is a four-category scheme model based on combining forest cover (derived from a digital land cover classification of Landsat TM imagery acquired in June, 200 1) with information on elevation and slope (derived from a digital elevation model obtained from topographic maps of the study area). The second model is based on the Ecological Niche Factor Analysis (ENFA) of a time series of weekly composites of WDRVI (Wide Dynamic Range Vegetation Index) images derived from MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer - 250 m/pixel) for 2001. A series of field plots was established in the reserve during the summer-autumn months of 2001-2003. The locations of the plots with panda feces were used to calibrate the ENFA model and to validate the results of both models. Results showed that the model using the seasonal variability of MODIS-WDRVI had a similar prediction success to that using Landsat TM and digital elevation model data, albeit having a coarser spatial resolution. This suggests that the phenological characterization of the land surface provides an appropriate environmental predictor for giant panda habitat mapping. Therefore, the information contained in remotely sensed data acquired with low spatial resolution but high frequency of acquisitions has considerable potential for mapping the habitat distribution of wildlife species. (C) 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

DOI:10.1016/j.rse.2007.09.012 (Full Text)

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