Landscape of fear visible from space

Elizabeth M. P. Madin*, Joshua S. Madin, David J. Booth

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    88 Citations (Scopus)


    By linking ecological theory with freely-available Google Earth satellite imagery, landscape-scale footprints of behavioural interactions between predators and prey can be observed remotely. A Google Earth image survey of the lagoon habitat at Heron Island within Australia's Great Barrier Reef revealed distinct halo patterns within algal beds surrounding patch reefs. Ground truth surveys confirmed that, as predicted, algal canopy height increases with distance from reef edges. A grazing assay subsequently demonstrated that herbivore grazing was responsible for this pattern. In conjunction with recent behavioural ecology studies, these findings demonstrate that herbivores' collective antipredator behavioural patterns can shape vegetation distributions on a scale clearly visible from space. By using sequential Google Earth images of specific locations over time, this technique could potentially allow rapid, inexpensive remote monitoring of cascading, indirect effects of predator removals (e.g., fishing; hunting) and/or recovery and reintroductions (e.g., marine or terrestrial reserves) nearly anywhere on earth.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number14
    Pages (from-to)1-4
    Number of pages4
    JournalScientific Reports
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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