Rapid global change is impacting the diversity of tree species and essential ecosystem functions and services of forests. It is therefore critical to understand and predict how the diversity of tree species is spatially distributed within and among forest biomes. Satellite remote sensing platforms have been used for decades to map forest structure and function but are limited in their capacity to monitor change by their relatively coarse spatial resolution and the complexity of scales at which different dimensions of biodiversity are observed in the field. Recently, airborne remote sensing platforms making use of passive high spectral resolution (i.e., hyperspectral) and active lidar data have been operationalized, providing an opportunity to disentangle how biodiversity patterns vary across space and time from field observations to larger scales. Most studies to date have focused on single sites and/or one sensor type; here we ask how multiple sensor types from the National Ecological Observatory Network’s Airborne Observation Platform (NEON AOP) perform across multiple sites in a single biome at the NEON field plot scale (i.e., 40 m × 40 m).
With a fusion of hyperspectral and lidar data from the NEON AOP, we assess the ability of high resolution remotely sensed metrics to measure biodiversity variation across eastern US temperate forests. We examine how taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic measures of alpha diversity vary spatially and assess to what degree remotely sensed metrics correlate with in situ biodiversity metrics.
Models using estimates of forest function, canopy structure, and topographic diversity performed better than models containing each category alone. Our results show that canopy structural diversity, and not just spectral reflectance, is critical to predicting biodiversity.
We found that an approach that jointly leverages spectral properties related to leaf and canopy functional traits and forest health, lidar derived estimates of forest structure, fine‐resolution topographic diversity, and careful consideration of biogeographical differences within and among biomes is needed to accurately map biodiversity variation from above.