Measuring Beta-Diversity by Remote Sensing: A Challenge for Biodiversity Monitoring


  1. Biodiversity includes multiscalar and multitemporal structures and processes, with different levels of functional organization, from genetic to ecosystemic levels. One of the mostly used methods to infer biodiversity is based on taxonomic approaches and community ecology theories. However, gathering extensive data in the field is difficult due to logistic problems, especially when aiming at modelling biodiversity changes in space and time, which assumes statistically sound sampling schemes. In this context, airborne or satellite remote sensing allows information to be gathered over wide areas in a reasonable time. 2. Most of the biodiversity maps obtained from remote sensing have been based on the inference of species richness by regression analysis. On the contrary, estimating compositional turnover (beta-diversity) might add crucial information related to relative abundance of different species instead of just richness. Presently, few studies have addressed the measurement of species compositional turnover from space. 3. Extending on previous work, in this manuscript, we propose novel techniques to measure beta-diversity from airborne or satellite remote sensing, mainly based on: (1) multivariate statistical analysis, (2) the spectral species concept, (3) self-organizing feature maps, (4) multidimensional distance matrices, and the (5) Rao’s Q diversity. Each of these measures addresses one or several issues related to turnover measurement. This manuscript is the first methodological example encompassing (and enhancing) most of the available methods for estimating beta-diversity from remotely sensed imagery and potentially relating them to species diversity in the field.