Remotely sensed indicators of habitat heterogeneity: Use of synthetic aperture radar in mapping vegetation structure and bird habitat

Marc L. Imhoff, Thomas D. Sisk, Anthony Milne, Garth Morgan, Tony Orr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Scopus citations


An integrated remote sensing/field ecology project linked the use of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and aerial photography to studies of landscape spatial heterogeneity and bird community ecology. P-, L-, and C-band SAR data, collected over a section of Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory during the Joint NASA / Australia DC-8 data acquisition campaign, were analyzed in light of field data integrating vegetation structure and floristics with bird abundances across a heterogeneous study site. Results indicate that SAR data are able to discern structural differences relevant to bird habitat quality within floristically homogeneous stands, while multispectral sensors successfully identified floristic differences among habitat types. Simplifying indices of bird diversity showed ambiguous changes across the site; however, the abundances of individual species were observed to change significantly across both floristic and structural gradients. These results suggest that efforts to map bird diversity should focus on species-specific habitat relationships and that some measure of vegetation structure is needed to understand bird habitat. The approach employed here advances the use of SAR data in the three-dimensional mapping of animal habitats from remotely sensed data, and extends current capabilities for mapping and modeling large-scale patterns in the distribution of biological diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-227
Number of pages11
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 1997


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences

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