BIODIVERSITY MAPPING VIA NATURA 2000 CONSERVATION STATUS AND EBV ASSESSMENT USING AIRBORNE LASER SCANNING IN ALKALI GRASSLANDS
Keywords: LIDAR, Essential Biodiversity Variables, Natura 2000, Conservation status, Biodiversity assessment
Abstract. Biodiversity is an ecological concept, which essentially involves a complex sum of several indicators. One widely accepted such set of indicators is prescribed for habitat conservation status assessment within Natura 2000, a continental-scale conservation programme of the European Union. Essential Biodiversity Variables are a set of indicators designed to be relevant for biodiversity and suitable for global-scale operational monitoring. Here we revisit a study of Natura 2000 conservation status mapping via airbone LIDAR that develops individual remote sensing-derived proxies for every parameter required by the Natura 2000 manual, from the perspective of developing regional-scale Essential Biodiversity Variables. Based on leaf-on and leaf-off point clouds (10 pt/m2) collected in an alkali grassland area, a set of data products were calculated at 0.5 ×0.5 m resolution. These represent various aspects of radiometric and geometric texture. A Random Forest machine learning classifier was developed to create fuzzy vegetation maps of classes of interest based on these data products. In the next step, either classification results or LIDAR data products were selected as proxies for individual Natura 2000 conservation status variables, and fine-tuned based on field references. These proxies showed adequate performance and were summarized to deliver Natura 2000 conservation status with 80% overall accuracy compared to field references. This study draws attention to the potential of LIDAR for regional-scale Essential Biodiversity variables, and also holds implications for global-scale mapping. These are (i) the use of sensor data products together with habitat-level classification, (ii) the utility of seasonal data, including for non-seasonal variables such as grassland canopy structure, and (iii) the potential of fuzzy mapping-derived class probabilities as proxies for species presence and absence.