Abstract: Most plant species are non-randomly distributed across environmental gradients in light, water, and nutrients. In tropical forests, these gradients result from biophysical processes related to the structure of the canopy and terrain, but how does species richness in tropical forests vary over such gradients, and can remote sensing capture this variation? Using airborne lidar, we tested the extent to which variation in tree species richness is statistically explained by lidar-measured structural variation in canopy height and terrain in the extensively studied, stem-mapped 50-ha plot on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama. We detected differences in species richness associated with variation in canopy height and topography across spatial scales ranging from 0.01-ha to 1.0-ha. However, species richness was most strongly associated with structural variation at the 1.0-ha scale. We developed a predictive generalized least squares model of species richness at the 1.0-ha scale (R2 = 0.479, RMSE = 8.3 species) using the mean and standard deviation of canopy height, mean elevation, and terrain curvature. The model demonstrates that lidar-derived measures of forest and terrain structure can capture a significant fraction of observed variation in tree species richness in tropical forests on local-scales.
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Wolf, J.A.; Fricker, G.A.; Meyer, V.; Hubbell, S.P.; Gillespie, T.W.; Saatchi, S.S. Plant Species Richness is Associated with Canopy Height and Topography in a Neotropical Forest. Remote Sens. 2012, 4, 4010-4021.
Wolf JA, Fricker GA, Meyer V, Hubbell SP, Gillespie TW, Saatchi SS. Plant Species Richness is Associated with Canopy Height and Topography in a Neotropical Forest. Remote Sensing. 2012; 4(12):4010-4021.
Wolf, Jeffrey A.; Fricker, Geoffrey A.; Meyer, Victoria; Hubbell, Stephen P.; Gillespie, Thomas W.; Saatchi, Sassan S. 2012. "Plant Species Richness is Associated with Canopy Height and Topography in a Neotropical Forest." Remote Sens. 4, no. 12: 4010-4021.