Capturing the fugitive: Applying remote sensing to terrestrial animal distribution and diversity

Euridice Leyequien*, Jochem Verrelst, Martijn Slot, Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, Ignas M.A. Heitkönig, Andrew Skidmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


Amongst many ongoing initiatives to preserve biodiversity, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment again shows the importance to slow down the loss of biological diversity. However, there is still a gap in the overview of global patterns of species distributions. This paper reviews how remote sensing has been used to assess terrestrial faunal diversity, with emphasis on proxies and methodologies, while exploring prospective challenges for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. We grouped and discussed papers dealing with the faunal taxa mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates into five classes of surrogates of animal diversity: (1) habitat suitability, (2) photosynthetic productivity, (3) multi-temporal patterns, (4) structural properties of habitat, and (5) forage quality. It is concluded that the most promising approach for the assessment, monitoring, prediction, and conservation of faunal diversity appears to be the synergy of remote sensing products and auxiliary data with ecological biodiversity models, and a subsequent validation of the results using traditional observation techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

An erratum for this article exists in the International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, vol. 9, issue 2, p. 224.


  • animal species richness
  • biodiversity
  • habitat heterogeneity
  • habitat mapping
  • NDVI
  • remote sensing


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