Biodiversity Monitoring in Changing Tropical Forests: A Review of Approaches and New Opportunities

Published on
October 18, 2017

A paper of Kalkidan Ayele Mulatu, Brice Mora, Lammert Kooistra and Martin Herold: Biodiversity Monitoring in Changing Tropical Forests: A Review of Approaches and New Opportunities, has been published in Remote Sensing, 9(10), 1059.

Tropical forests host at least two-thirds of the world’s flora and fauna diversity and store 25% of the terrestrial above and belowground carbon. However, biodiversity decline due to deforestation and forest degradation of tropical forest is increasing at an alarming rate. Biodiversity dynamics due to natural and anthropogenic disturbances are mainly monitored using established field survey approaches. However, such approaches appear to fall short at addressing complex disturbance factors and responses. We argue that the integration of state-of-the-art monitoring approaches can improve the detection of subtle biodiversity disturbances and responses in changing tropical forests, which are often data-poor. We assess the state-of-the-art technologies used to monitor biodiversity dynamics of changing tropical forests, and how their potential integration can increase the detail and accuracy of biodiversity monitoring. Moreover, the relevance of these biodiversity monitoring techniques in support of the UNCBD Aichi targets was explored using the Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) as a framework. Our review indicates that although established field surveys were generally the dominant monitoring systems employed, the temporal trend of monitoring approaches indicates the increasing application of remote sensing and in -situ sensors in detecting disturbances related to agricultural activities, logging, hunting and infrastructure. The relevance of new technologies (i.e., remote sensing, in situ sensors, and DNA barcoding) in operationalising EBVs (especially towards the ecosystem structure, ecosystem function, and species population classes) and the Aichi targets has been assessed. Remote sensing application is limited for EBV classes such as genetic composition and species traits but was found most suitable for ecosystem structure class. The complementarity of remote sensing and emerging technologies were shown in relation to EBV candidates such as species distribution, net primary productivity, and habitat structure. We also developed a framework based on the primary biodiversity attributes, which indicated the potential of integration between monitoring approaches. In situ sensors are suitable to help measure biodiversity composition, while approaches based on remote sensing are powerful for addressing structural and functional biodiversity attributes. We conclude that, synergy between the recent biodiversity monitoring approaches is important and possible. However, testing the suitability of monitoring methods across scales, integrating heterogeneous monitoring technologies, setting up metadata standards, and making interpolation and/or extrapolation from observation at different scales is still required to design a robust biodiversity monitoring system that can contribute to effective conservation measures.

Keywords: tropical forests; biodiversity monitoring; disturbances; remote sensing; in situ sensors; DNA barcoding