Advances in animal ecology from 3D ecosystem mapping with LiDAR

Friday, 18 December 2015: 15:25
2004 (Moscone West)
Andrew Davies and Gregory Paul Asner, Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Global Ecology, Stanford, CA, United States
The advent and recent advances of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) have enabled accurate measurement of 3D ecosystem structure. Although the use of LiDAR data is widespread in vegetation science, it has only recently (< 14 years) been applied to animal ecology. Despite such recent application, LiDAR has enabled new insights in the field and revealed the fundamental importance of 3D ecosystem structure for animals. We reviewed the studies to date that have used LiDAR in animal ecology, synthesising the insights gained. Structural heterogeneity is most conducive to increased animal richness and abundance, and increased complexity of vertical vegetation structure is more positively influential than traditionally measured canopy cover, which produces mixed results. However, different taxonomic groups interact with a variety of 3D canopy traits and some groups with 3D topography. LiDAR technology can be applied to animal ecology studies in a wide variety of environments to answer an impressive array of questions. Drawing on case studies from vastly different groups, termites and lions, we further demonstrate the applicability of LiDAR and highlight new understanding, ranging from habitat preference to predator-prey interactions, that would not have been possible from studies restricted to field based methods. We conclude with discussion of how future studies will benefit by using LiDAR to consider 3D habitat effects in a wider variety of ecosystems and with more taxa to develop a better understanding of animal dynamics.