Assessing the Conservation status of Neotropical Dry forests using Geographic Information Systems and Optical Remote Sensing

  • Author / Creator
    Portillo, Carlos
  • Planet Earth is undergoing a rapid rate of ecosystem conversion and degradation and one of the major challenges of current environmental science is to contribute to the management and conservation of biodiversity through the development of tools for assessing environmental change. The main goal of this doctoral dissertation is to contribute to the scientific literature on remote sensing tools for monitoring tropical dry forests, which is one of most important global change frontiers. This thesis is composed of five chapters which have the goals of covering the following specific goals: 1) To estimate the extent and geographic distribution of the neotropical dry forest. 2) To evaluate the potential use of satellite-detected fires as deforestation predictors in tropical dry forest and 3) To evaluate the potential of remote sensing techniques to detect edge effects in tropical dry forest. Before assessing the main goals of the thesis, in chapter two, Integrating Remote Sensing and Biodiversity research, we stress out the necessity of integrated assessments using multiple spatial and spectral resolution sensors over a wide array of ecosystems in order to find relevant ecosystem properties that would be sensitive to species richness. Chapter three, Extent and Conservation of tropical dry forests in the Americas, describes a regional scale mapping effort using coarse-scale imagery (MODIS 500-m) of the extent and geographical distribution of tropical dry forests that introduces several innovations to previous assessments. Based on these techniques, the total current extent of tropical dry forest in the Americas is 519,597 Km2. I also found that 66% of the ecosystem has been already converted to other land uses while only 4.5 % of is under protected areas. Chapter four, MODIS Active fires and deforestation in tropical dry forest landscapes, we show correlations patterns between the number of MODIS Active Fires and forest cover change in four tropical dry forest landscapes in Latin America. At the Santa Cruz site (Bolivia), correlations were strong and significant while at Chamela Site (Mexico) and the Mata Seca site (Brazil) correlations were moderate but significant as well. In the Machango site (Venezuela), active fires showed no correlation to deforestation events. In general, our findings show that fires detected by the MODIS sensor may be used as predictors of deforestation in tropical dry forest ecosystems. Chapter five, Edge influence on canopy openness and understory microclimate in two Neotropical dry forest fragments, addresses one of the most characteristic features of fragmented tropical forests: the increase in disturbance near the edges of the fragment or what is known as “edge effects”. Results in gap fraction and Fraction of Intercepted Photosynthetically Active Radiation (FiPAR) show that edge influence at tropical dry forest sites extend to at least 300-m. Finally, Chapter Six, Remote sensing of edge effects in dry forest fragments using CHRIS/Proba Imagery, shows an assessment of changes in the fraction of intercepted photosynthetically active radiation (FiPAR) across four edge-to-interior transects in tropical dry forests fragments and their correlation to spectral vegetation indices (SVIs) computed from the hyperspectral and multiangular CHRIS sensor on board the Proba platform. Results show that the use of spectral vegetation indices for identifying and quantifying edge effects in tropical forests have the potential to improve modeling of forest disturbance in fragmented landscapes. The work contained in these five chapters address issues that are critical to the advancement of tropical dry forest monitoring. These studies contribute to the current scientific literature on the use and application of optical remote sensing tools, not only applicable in tropical dry forests, but for tropical forest conservation at the continental, regional and local level.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Benoit Rivard
    • Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • John Gamon (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences)
    • Jeff Kavanaugh (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences)
    • Kaoru Kitajima (Biology, University of Florida)
    • Joerg Sander (Computing Sciences)
    • Arie Croitoru (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences)