The decline of biodiversity is one of the major current global issues. Still, there is a widespread lack of information about the spatial distribution of individual species and biodiversity as a whole. Remote sensing techniques are increasingly used for biodiversity monitoring and
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The decline of biodiversity is one of the major current global issues. Still, there is a widespread lack of information about the spatial distribution of individual species and biodiversity as a whole. Remote sensing techniques are increasingly used for biodiversity monitoring and especially the combination of LiDAR and hyperspectral data is expected to deliver valuable information. In this study spatial patterns of vascular plant community composition and α-diversity of a temperate montane forest in Germany were analysed for different forest strata. The predictive power of LiDAR (LiD) and hyperspectral (MNF) datasets alone and combined (MNF+LiD) was compared using random forest regression in a ten-fold cross-validation scheme that included feature selection and model tuning. The final models were used for spatial predictions. Species richness could be predicted with varying accuracy (R2
= 0.26 to 0.55) depending on the forest layer. In contrast, community composition of the different layers, obtained by multivariate ordination, could in part be modelled with high accuracies for the first ordination axis (R2
= 0.39 to 0.78), but poor accuracies for the second axis (R2
≤ 0.3). LiDAR variables were the best predictors for total species richness across all forest layers (R2 LiD
= 0.3, R2 MNF
= 0.08, R2 MNF+LiD
= 0.2), while for community composition across all forest layers both hyperspectral and LiDAR predictors achieved similar performances (R2 LiD
= 0.75, R2 MNF
= 0.76, R2 MNF+LiD
= 0.78). The improvement in R2
was small (≤0.07)—if any—when using both LiDAR and hyperspectral data as compared to using only the best single predictor set. This study shows the high potential of LiDAR and hyperspectral data for plant biodiversity modelling, but also calls for a critical evaluation of the added value of combining both with respect to acquisition costs.