Insect diversity is steadily declining. Satellite data is one way of monitoring the effectiveness of measures to combat loss of biodiversity.
Photo: ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca


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Even the smallest insects can be reliably documented using satellite data, researchers report. Consequently, free radar data can offer an alternative to high-resolution laser scan data.

Freely available radar data from satellites can be used to analyse biodiversity in forests very effectively, according to research by scientists from Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg, Germany published in October 2019.

The number and diversity of living creatures, and particularly insects, are steadily declining. Satellite data is one option for documenting global biodiversity as broadly and comprehensively as possible. Among other things, this could be used to determine whether or not measures against insect declines are effective.

Previously, however, little use was made of this because of the prevailing belief that there was no freely available data providing adequate results. Research has now shown that freely available radar data can be used very effectively to map biodiversity from space.

Satellite radar data is surprisingly suitable for describing the diversity of vertebrates, plants and fungi in forests, and even the smallest insects and spiders. This is the case even though radar data is relatively coarse-grained, and although forests with their highly dynamic and complex three-dimensional structure pose a special challenge for biodiversity monitoring.

The research team compared two methods.

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