1 Tahrcountry Musings: Modeling Preferred Habitat of Birds with Laser

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Modeling Preferred Habitat of Birds with Laser

There is exciting news for ornithologists. Study of bird habitat has entered hi-tech area. A team of NASA-funded researchers led by Dr Scott Goetz of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts, has completed an experiment to remotely sense and predict birds’ preferred habitat.
NASA's Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS) was the key to the team's success. LVIS data indicated the height of the trees, the state of branches and the canopy layers beneath tree tops. The composition of trees and shrubs determines habitat quality, which in turn influences a bird’s presence and population density.
Painstaking field verification was a natural corollary to the experiment. Dr Scott Goetz and his team combined satellite data, a ground-based bird census, light detection and ranging (lidar), and a new modeling technique to correctly predict the presence of song birds in the forest
The observations were based on the Black-throated Blue Warbler, a small songbird that prefers lower-lying vegetation. Using four years of LVIS data, the researchers ranked various forest habitats as good, fair, or poor based on canopy structure. Their good rankings for the warbler matched actual ground data 90 percent of the time.
Full details appear in the latest edition of journal Ecology.

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