Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

23.06.2017

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously possible. “There are ten times as many satellites in operation now as there were in the 1970s. Most people use maps from earth observation satellites on their mobile devices.


Satellite data to map endangered monkey populations on Earth

University of Leicester / Dr Beth Cole

The European Copernicus satellites now provide free global data every 5 days down to a resolution of 10 m. And think of small cube satellites that fit into a tote bag and weigh only 2 kg. Satellite technology has undergone a massive change and has never been so accessible,” explains Heiko Balzter from the National Centre for Earth Observation at the University of Leicester.

“However, satellites cannot observe most animals directly. Even today we cannot see monkeys from space. So most biodiversity is invisible to a satellite,” adds Douglas W. Yu from the School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, who co-led the research.

Therefore, scientists had to rely on indicators, such as land cover type or distance to roads or settlements, to infer the diversity of species and landscapes (biodiversity) for a particular area or region. Modern ecological models that can combine the information from satellite data and on species occurrence from ground surveys are now offering near real-time monitoring of the impacts of land management changes on biodiversity.

“In our paper we propose to use an innovative mix of new technologies rather than a single remedy,” explains Yu.

Among these new technologies which can be used to map animal occurrence and distribution are automated recording devices that either record animal sounds in a landscape, or take vital photographs of animals passing automatically triggered camera-traps. Modern genetic “fingerprinting” on a massive scale, called ‘high-throughput DNA sequencing’, can also tell which species live in a landscape, when applied to the genetic material that species leave behind in the environment in the form of saliva, urine, faeces, hair, feathers or blood.

In addition, mass-collected bulk samples of small invertebrate organisms can be collected in the field with relative ease. For example, mosquitoes can be caught in a trap and blended into a ‘biodiversity soup’ to analyse the genetic material (DNA) in the blood of the animals they have been feeding on. Yu says, “DNA-based methods are a powerful way to circumvent the taxonomic bottleneck in biodiversity assessment, but they are only partially able to relieve the sampling bottleneck. In the end, the only way to cover whole landscapes is to combine satellites, sequencers, and statistics.”

Together, the data on animal sounds and photos, the DNA they leave behind, and satellite observations provide a wealth of biodiversity information.

Balzter comments, “It may sound like a strange idea - satellites that can see the genetic make-up of the blood sucked by mosquitoes. Of course they cannot directly see that. But big data from genetic fingerprinting of animal DNA in a landscape combined with fine-resolution satellite data and sophisticated ecological models can. We need to work across subjects to make this happen. These are very exciting times. If our research can help to save a species that gives me a very strong sense of purpose to my job as a university professor.”

But the proposed approach in this study is not just future tech. “Earlier this year we have published the first example from three forest reserves in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo,” comments Andreas Wilting from the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

“We used camera-trap data, in combination with high-resolution satellite data and modern community occupancy models to map biodiversity and show that mammalian biodiversity benefits from sustainable forest management in forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).” This example highlights how modern technologies can assist land managers to reduce their impact on biodiversity.

Many animal species are threatened with extinction. As a result of this, many countries have signed up to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to try and stop this loss of species.

In 2010, the Convention met in Aichi, Japan, and agreed a set of targets, called the “Aichi Biodiversity Targets”. These targets aim to address the underlying causes of biodiversity, reduce the pressures on biodiversity, safeguard ecosystems and species, enhance the benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services, and enable participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building.

Lead author Alex Bush of the Kunming Institute of Zoology, China, and the Canadian Rivers Institute summarised, “For years, management decisions have typically relied on surrogates with unknown consequences for biodiversity conservation. With the parallel developments in remote sensing, genomics and more automated field recording, we now have the tools needed to collect data at a large scale.

Methods to model these 'big data' sources are already available and could improve how we conserve and manage ecosystems, and the essential services they provide, in a period of intense global change.”

Publications
The paper, titled ‘Connecting earth observation to high-throughput biodiversity data’ is published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution: DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0176.

Case study from Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, titled ‘Quantifying mammalian biodiversity co-benefits in certified tropical forests’ has been published in the journal Diversity and Distributions: DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12530.

Please find attached an image - satellite data to map endangered monkey populations on Earth.
Image credit: University of Leicester / Dr Beth Cole
Image caption: An example of the use of Earth Observation for monitoring ecosystem services. A false colour composite of predicted abundance of Graminoids (Red) Shrubs (Green) and Bryophytes (Blue) representing vegetation composition on a peatland from Partial Least Squares Regression models on a hyperspectral image.

Contact

University of Leicester
Professor Heiko Balzter
hb91@le.ac.uk

UEA Communications Officer
Lucy Clegg
01603 592764
lucy.clegg@uea.ac.uk.

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)
Alfred-Kowalke-Str. 17
13125 Berlin
Germany

Dr Andreas Wilting
wilting@izw-berlin.de
+49 30 5168 333

Anja Wirsing | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Cloud technology: Dynamic certificates make cloud service providers more secure
15.01.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht New discovery could improve brain-like memory and computing
10.01.2018 | University of Minnesota

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>