Remote sensing (RS) is a powerful tool to measure and monitor Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) and their environmental drivers. Despite this potential, stronger integration between remote sensing experts and the ecological community could better support biodiversity initiatives. Here we highlight opportunities to harness remote sensing technology to better understand biodiversity patterns, ecological processes and the consequences for ecosystem services (ESs). We argue that tracking many EBVs using remote sensing should prioritize the monitoring of dominant species, a scalable property across multiple EBV classes, for several reasons. First, a few dominant species in an ecological community disproportionately contribute to the satellite spectral signature. Second, a focus on dominance would enable a stronger links to ecological research, as dominance reflects the ecological community context (i.e. relative abundance of coexisting species). For example dominant species should be especially important contributors to many ecosystem functions and services that rely on abundance or biomass, such as carbon storage or nutrient cycling, because of their greater representation in a community. Furthermore, global change impacts on communities may be reflected in changing dominance structure before the losses of species, thus tracking dominance provides an early-warning sign of community change for EBVs. Finally, focusing on dominant species should improve understanding of spatial and temporal dynamics of dominance-driven ESs through RS mapping. Given the importance of dominant species to ecological communities and ESs, monitoring dominance under changing environmental conditions and human impacts should be a global priority.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on a previous version of this paper. L.D. was supported by a grant from the Institute on the Environment at University of Minnesota to P.B. Reich and S. Polasky.
- Biodiversity monitoring
- ecosystem functions
- essential biodiversity variables
- species abundance
- species composition