Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Predictive model offers accurate remote mapping of plant communities

Date:
June 1, 2011
Source:
University of Leeds
Summary:
A researcher in the UK has developed a fast, accurate and inexpensive method of creating detailed vegetation community maps over very large areas, by coupling aerial photographs with data from maps.

This is a view of Askrigg, Wensleydale.
Credit: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA)

A PhD student at the University of Leeds has developed a fast, accurate and inexpensive method of creating detailed vegetation community maps over very large areas, by coupling aerial photographs with data from maps.

Related Articles


Working in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Ute Bradter from Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences, has collated existing data (such as soil type, altitude, slope and aspect) and using a sophisticated statistical model, predicted the distribution of plant communities at a high resolution in the Yorkshire Dales, over 1600 km2.

Her results, published June 1 in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, showed an accuracy of up to 92 per cent, comparable with the traditional mapping method of on-site surveys conducted by trained ecologists.

Detailed and high resolution vegetation maps noting species distribution are a crucial resource for land management, conservation planning, environmental monitoring and research. But manual mapping is a slow and expensive process, and faster, reliable methods are much needed.

Automatic mapping using aerial or satellite photography has been attempted, but until now, achieving reliable degrees of accuracy has proven difficult.

"What Ute has achieved is remarkable," says her supervisor and co-author Professor Tim Benton. "To put it into perspective, it would take sixteen years of day-in, day-out sampling for one experienced ecologist to replicate this particular mapping exercise by hand."

Vegetation in an area is classified into different communities depending on the range of species and their abundance. Communities can be described in detail, for example there are 22 vegetation communities on British heaths alone.

The Leeds research combined information and datasets from a range of readily available sources, such as soil maps, standard ordnance survey maps and aerial photography. The predictions were categorised into 24 National Vegetation Classification groups (plus an extra catch-all category of "wood") to a 5m resolution.

"The statistical model is highly accurate because of the diverse range of information we used," says Bradter. "The high resolution aerial photography gave us added colour and texture -- for example to differentiate wooded areas from other areas -- but we incorporated additional physical information into the model, such as topographical measurements of slopes and elevation, and information from different spatial scales."

"Our approach shows that even for relatively complex vegetation classifications it is possible to produce accurate maps over hundreds of square kilometres. We're particularly pleased given that some vegetation communities are difficult to distinguish even using trained field workers," she adds.

If further research confirms that the method performs as well in other environments, such as lowland areas, Bradter is confident that it could be used to accurately assess the conservation value of land in other regions and countries where similar datasets are available.

Co-author and Senior Wildlife Conservation Officer at YDNPA, Dr Tim Thom, says: "This method also has the potential to be used for a wide range of other environmental purposes, such as identifying rare habitat, or where drainage ditches are grown over and so pose a flood risk, or where erosion-risk is high in areas of bare peat. What's most exciting is that if we can map the plants accurately, we can also make a better guess what animals live there too, so we could also remotely monitor biodiversity across the farmed habitat or predict the potential value of setting aside pockets of land for conservation as part of agri-environmental schemes."

The research was funded and co-supervised by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ute Bradter, Tim J. Thom, John D. Altringham, William E. Kunin, Tim G. Benton. Prediction of National Vegetation Classification communities in the British uplands using environmental data at multiple spatial scales, aerial images and the classifier random forest. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2011.02010.x

Cite This Page:

University of Leeds. "Predictive model offers accurate remote mapping of plant communities." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110601101541.htm>.
University of Leeds. (2011, June 1). Predictive model offers accurate remote mapping of plant communities. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110601101541.htm
University of Leeds. "Predictive model offers accurate remote mapping of plant communities." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110601101541.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins