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Editorial - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Towards complex applications of active remote sensing for ecology and conservation

Latifi, Hooman; Valbuena, Ruben; Silva, Carlos Alberto


1. Remote sensing (RS) and geospatial sciences already amount to a long history of fostering research in topics related to ecology. Data and methods have mainly been subject to research and experiments, but trends are now emerging that suggest the use of RS in practical applications like nationwide monitoring programs and assisting global conservation goals. However, use of active remote sensing for ecological and conservation is in its infancy, and the implications of active sensor data, including light detection and ranging and radio detection and ranging that mostly deliver three-dimensional (3D) information, are still relatively primitive and have largely been limited to indirect use of their extracted proxies for ecological modelling.2. This cross-journal special feature between Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Journal of Animal Ecology, Journal of Applied Ecology and Journal of Ecology includes 18 papers that include full research papers, reviews and technical applications. They are mostly novel in either or both their interpretation of proxies derived from active RS data and the direct usage of 3D RS techniques (terrestrial, airborne, UAV borne and spaceborne) to address ecological topics.3. We categorized the published contributions into the following thematic groups, with some degree of overlap: (i) ecosystem structural analysis by active data (nine studies); (ii) response of animal populations to climate dynamics as shown by active data; (iii) interactive effects of forest structure and wildlife monitoring (five studies); (iv) forest inventories assisted by active data (one study) and (v) tree type classification by active data (one study).4. Synthesis. The studies in this Special Feature and trends shown by other recent works at the interface of ecology and active RS confirm the ongoing shift from indirect and solely proxy-based approaches to direct and more data-science driven methods in approaching ecology and conservation problems by means of active sensors. Relatively affordable and accessible drone and citizen science-based on-demand active RS data acquisition are becoming common practice, and the future of sensor development is hypothesized to go beyond the current domination of very high spatial resolution data and towards multiple spaceborne platforms. These tools and methods will support spatial upscaling, uncertainty analysis, large-scale mapping and monitoring of wildlife dynamics, among other topics that can take advantage of multitemporal/time series data. Nevertheless, access to demanding and costly very high-resolution data sources may still be maintained and optimized by establishing international and public-private partnered data pools.


active remote sensing; conservation; ecology; ecosystem structure; LiDAR; RADAR; UAV

Published in

Methods in Ecology and Evolution
2023, Volume: 14, number: 7, pages: 1578-1586
Publisher: WILEY

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Remote Sensing

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