Thermal imaging for biodiversity monitoring in large and fragmented restoration projects

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Jonas Hamberg, Stephen Murphy, Derek Robinson, Roydon Fraser, Andrew Trant

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Scalable indicators of biodiversity change are needed for monitoring of restoration. We tested if vegetation species diversity affects surface temperature change over time during the growing season, when controlling for biomass and shade, based on the idea that more species can use more of the incoming solar energy and re-emit less as sensible heat. We studied the relative temperature change of 31 post-agricultural fields (300+ hectares total) as they were restored into oakwoodland ecosystems in Southern Ontario, Canada 2002-2018. Thermal imagery was acquired from three Landsat satellites and the ECOSTRESS instrument on the International Space Station. Three of the fields had been surveyed for vegetation diversity and cover annually, allowing for comparisons between vegetation and temperature. When controlled for vegetation ground cover, canopy cover, stem count and NDVI, an increase of one ‘effective number of species’, or Hill number, caused a 5 % decrease in relative temperature (p<0.001) between the restoration area and a paired mature forest area. When dividing native and exotic species diversity, only the former decreases relative temperature significantly (p<0.001). For all fields studied, we found a mean decrease in temperature of 1.5% per year since restoration. Paired day and night ECOSTRESS image products from 2018 showed a significant (p=0.002) decrease of 4%-points of diurnal temperature difference per year since restoration for the same fields. Our results offer evidence that relative temperature could be used as an indicator to measure change after restoration, and to identify problem areas in restoration projects in order to guide ground-level staff.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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