Inferring Species Richness and Turnover by Statistical Multiresolution Texture Analysis of Satellite Imagery

Matteo Convertino, Rami S. Mangoubi, Igor Linkov, Nathan C. Lowry, Mukund Desai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: The quantification of species-richness and species-turnover is essential to effective monitoring of ecosystems. Wetland ecosystems are particularly in need of such monitoring due to their sensitivity to rainfall, water management and other external factors that affect hydrology, soil, and species patterns. A key challenge for environmental scientists is determining the linkage between natural and human stressors, and the effect of that linkage at the species level in space and time. We propose pixel intensity based Shannon entropy for estimating species-richness, and introduce a method based on statistical wavelet multiresolution texture analysis to quantitatively assess interseasonal and interannual species turnover. Methodology/Principal Findings: We model satellite images of regions of interest as textures. We define a texture in an image as a spatial domain where the variations in pixel intensity across the image are both stochastic and multiscale. To compare two textures quantitatively, we first obtain a multiresolution wavelet decomposition of each. Either an appropriate probability density function (pdf) model for the coefficients at each subband is selected, and its parameters estimated, or, a non-parametric approach using histograms is adopted. We choose the former, where the wavelet coefficients of the multiresolution decomposition at each subband are modeled as samples from the generalized Gaussian pdf. We then obtain the joint pdf for the coefficients for all subbands, assuming independence across subbands; an approximation that simplifies the computational burden significantly without sacrificing the ability to statistically distinguish textures. We measure the difference between two textures' representative pdf's via the Kullback-Leibler divergence (KL). Species turnover, or β diversity, is estimated using both this KL divergence and the difference in Shannon entropy. Additionally, we predict species richness, or α diversity, based on the Shannon entropy of pixel intensity.To test our approach, we specifically use the green band of Landsat images for a water conservation area in the Florida Everglades. We validate our predictions against data of species occurrences for a twenty-eight years long period for both wet and dry seasons. Our method correctly predicts 73% of species richness. For species turnover, the newly proposed KL divergence prediction performance is near 100% accurate. This represents a significant improvement over the more conventional Shannon entropy difference, which provides 85% accuracy. Furthermore, we find that changes in soil and water patterns, as measured by fluctuations of the Shannon entropy for the red and blue bands respectively, are positively correlated with changes in vegetation. The fluctuations are smaller in the wet season when compared to the dry season. Conclusions/Significance: Texture-based statistical multiresolution image analysis is a promising method for quantifying interseasonal differences and, consequently, the degree to which vegetation, soil, and water patterns vary. The proposed automated method for quantifying species richness and turnover can also provide analysis at higher spatial and temporal resolution than is currently obtainable from expensive monitoring campaigns, thus enabling more prompt, more cost effective inference and decision making support regarding anomalous variations in biodiversity. Additionally, a matrix-based visualization of the statistical multiresolution analysis is presented to facilitate both insight and quick recognition of anomalous data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere46616
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 24 2012


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