Plant spectral diversity as a surrogate for species, functional and phylogenetic diversity across a hyper-diverse biogeographic region


Abstract Aim With plant biodiversity under global threat, there is an urgent need to monitor the spatial distribution of multiple axes of biodiversity. Remote sensing is a critical tool in this endeavour. One remote sensing approach for detecting biodiversity is based on the hypothesis that the spectral diversity of plant communities is a surrogate of multiple dimensions of biodiversity. We investigated the generality of this ?surrogacy? for spectral, species, functional and phylogenetic diversity across 1,267 plots in the Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR), a hyper-diverse region comprising several biomes and two adjacent global biodiversity hotspots. Location The GCFR centred in south-western and western South Africa. Time period All data were collected between 1978?2014. Major taxa studied Vascular plants within the GCFR. Methods Spectral diversity was calculated using leaf reflectance spectra (450?950 nm) and was related to other dimensions of biodiversity via linear models. The accuracy of different spectral diversity metrics was compared using 10-fold cross-validation. Results We found that a distance-based spectral diversity metric was a robust predictor of species, functional and phylogenetic biodiversity. This result serves as a proof-of-concept that spectral diversity is a potential surrogate of biodiversity across a hyper-diverse biogeographic region. While our results support the generality of spectral diversity as a biodiversity surrogate, we also find that relationships vary between different geographic subregions and biomes, suggesting that differences in broad-scale community composition can affect these relationships. Main conclusions Spectral diversity was shown to be a robust surrogate of multiple dimensions of biodiversity across biomes and a widely varying biogeographic region. We also extend these surrogacy relationships to ecological redundancy to demonstrate the potential for additional insights into community structure based on spectral reflectance.

Global ecology and biogeography: a journal of macroecology