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Ecol Lett. 2018 Oct;21(10):1572-1585. doi: 10.1111/ele.13106. Epub 2018 Jul 13.

Biodiversity monitoring, earth observations and the ecology of scale.

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Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Human activity and land-use change are dramatically altering the sizes, geographical distributions and functioning of biological populations worldwide, with tremendous consequences for human well-being. Yet our ability to measure, monitor and forecast biodiversity change - crucial to addressing it - remains limited. Biodiversity monitoring systems are being developed to improve this capacity by deriving metrics of change from an array of in situ data (e.g. field plots or species occurrence records) and Earth observations (EO; e.g. satellite or airborne imagery). However, there are few ecologically based frameworks for integrating these data into meaningful metrics of biodiversity change. Here, I describe how concepts of pattern and scale in ecology could be used to design such a framework. I review three core topics: the role of scale in measuring and modelling biodiversity patterns with EO, scale-dependent challenges linking in situ and EO data and opportunities to apply concepts of pattern and scale to EO to improve biodiversity mapping. From this analysis emerges an actionable approach for measuring, monitoring and forecasting biodiversity change, highlighting key opportunities to establish EO as the backbone of global-scale, science-driven conservation.


Biodiversity monitoring; Earth observations; biogeography; modelling; pattern; scale; spatial ecology


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