Detection of invasive plant species and assessment of their impact on ecosystem properties through remote sensing (DIARS)
I’m involved in DIARS together with Ruben Van De Kerchove (VITO), Pieter Kempeneers (VITO), Hannes Feilhauer (FAU), Duccio Rocchini (FEM), Sebastian Schmidtlein (KIT), Olivier Honnay (KUL), Gregory Asner (CIS) and Ben Somers (KUL).
Accurately detecting and mapping invasive plant species distributions based on commonly used field surveys is a very time consuming process, often subject to observations bias, e.g. through undersurveying less accessible areas. Remote sensing technology provides a promising, although largely underexplored, avenue to upscaling the level of observations of biological invasion. Remote sensing offers the capacity to generate large, statistically valid predictions of species distributions. Surveying and mapping individual species is, however, often not feasible using traditional remote sensing techniques, due to the high spectral similarity of different co-occurring plant species. In this perspective, recent developments in two aircraft remote sensing technologies – hyperspectral imaging and light detection-and-ranging (LiDAR) – offer crucial advantages. Current state-of-the-art hyperspectral sensors provide optical radiance data in >200 channels from 350-2500 nm with a spectral resolution of < 10 nm, characterizing the canopy chemistry, and as such allowing a better discrimination between subtle physiological differences among plant species. As a complement to hyperspectral imaging, small-footprint LiDAR provides an extremely high-resolution analysis of the 3-D canopy structure and topography of the ground surface and the vegetation, thus providing structural properties of the landscape. Despite a handful pioneering studies, all of them outside of Europe, the use of remote sensing for studying biological invasions is largely underexplored and underused by ecologists. This may be attributed to the fact that there are relatively few interdisciplinary links between ecologists and remote sensing specialists. DIARS aims at filling this timely gap by bringing together European researchers from both fields.
DIARS objectives are to: (i) quantify, study and better understand the effects of biological invasion on ecosystem properties, through methods of remote sensing ; (ii) develop and validate an approach to create accurate fine scale baseline maps and predictive models of the distribution of invasive plant species at the landscape scale; (iii) assess possibilities and constraints for generalization across ecosystems and invasive species; (iv) develop and disseminate a toolbox for the detection, mapping and prediction of the distribution of invasive plant species at the landscape scale, and to assess their impact on ecosystem properties; and (v) provide knowledge transfer and a hands-on training for ecologists, conservation biologists, policy makers and landscape managers across Europe.