Towards connecting biodiversity and geodiversity across scales with satellite remote sensing

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Feb 27, 2019
Phoebe L. Zarnetske, Quentin D. Read, Sydne Record, Keith D. Gaddis, Stephanie Pau, Martina L. Hobi, Sparkle L. Malone, Jennifer Costanza, Kyla M. Dahlin, Andrew M. Latimer, Adam M. Wilson, John M. Grady, Scott V. Ollinger, Andrew O. Finley




Geodiversity (i.e., the variation in Earth's abiotic processes and features) has strong effects on biodiversity patterns. However, major gaps remain in our understanding of how relationships between biodiversity and geodiversity vary over space and time. Biodiversity data are globally sparse and concentrated in particular regions. In contrast, many forms of geodiversity can be measured continuously across the globe with satellite remote sensing. Satellite remote sensing directly measures environmental variables with grain sizes as small as tens of metres and can therefore elucidate biodiversity–geodiversity relationships across scales.


We show how one important geodiversity variable, elevation, relates to alpha, beta and gamma taxonomic diversity of trees across spatial scales. We use elevation from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) and c. 16,000 Forest Inventory and Analysis plots to quantify spatial scaling relationships between biodiversity and geodiversity with generalized linear models (for alpha and gamma diversity) and beta regression (for beta diversity) across five spatial grains ranging from 5 to 100 km. We illustrate different relationships depending on the form of diversity; beta and gamma diversity show the strongest relationship with variation in elevation.



With the onset of climate change, it is more important than ever to examine geodiversity for its potential to foster biodiversity. Widely available satellite remotely sensed geodiversity data offer an important and expanding suite of measurements for understanding and predicting changes in different forms of biodiversity across scales. Interdisciplinary research teams spanning biodiversity, geoscience and remote sensing are well poised to advance understanding of biodiversity–geodiversity relationships across scales and guide the conservation of nature.

Read the article in Global Ecology and Biogeography.

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