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Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences | Geography Department | Biogeography | News | Mapping wildlife habitat dynamics from Landsat time series

Mapping wildlife habitat dynamics from Landsat time series

J. Oeser, M. Heurich, C. Senf, D. Pflugmacher & T. Kuemmerle



In our new paper, we show how to move beyond one-time snapshots in wildlife habitat mapping with Landsat time series. Combining animal movement data with the LandTrendr algorithm, we document partially diverging responses by two deer species to different forest disturbances. Our findings highlight long-term impacts of forest disturbance on deer habitat with important implications for wildlife and forest management.


Disturbances play a key role in driving forest ecosystem dynamics, but how disturbances shape wildlife habitat across space and time often remains unclear. A major reason for this is a lack of information about changes in habitat suitability across large areas and longer time periods. Here, we use a novel approach based on Landsat satellite image time series to map seasonal habitat suitability annually from 1986 to 2017. Our approach involves characterizing forest disturbance dynamics using Landsat-based metrics, harmonizing these metrics through a temporal segmentation algorithm, and then using them together with GPS telemetry data in habitat models. We apply this framework to assess how natural forest disturbances and post-disturbance salvage logging affect habitat suitability for two ungulates, roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and red deer (Cervus elaphus), over 32 years in a Central European forest landscape. We found that red and roe deer differed in their response to forest disturbances. Habitat suitability for red deer consistently improved after disturbances, whereas the suitability of disturbed sites was more variable for roe deer depending on season (lower during winter than summer) and disturbance agent (lower in windthrow versus bark-beetle-affected stands). Salvage logging altered the suitability of bark beetle-affected stands for deer, having negative effects on red deer and mixed effects on roe deer, but generally did not have clear effects on habitat suitability in windthrows. Our results highlight long-lasting legacy effects of forest disturbances on deer habitat. For example, bark beetle disturbances improved red deer habitat suitability for at least 25 years. The duration of disturbance impacts generally increased with elevation. Methodologically, our approach proved effective for improving the robustness of habitat reconstructions from Landsat time series: integrating multi-year telemetry data into single, multi-temporal habitat models improved model transferability in time. Likewise, temporally segmenting the Landsat-based metrics increased the temporal consistency of our habitat suitability maps. As the frequency of natural forest disturbances is increasing across the globe, their impacts on wildlife habitat should be considered in wildlife and forest management. Our approach offers a widely applicable method for monitoring habitat suitability changes caused by landscape dynamics such as forest disturbance.

Link to the manuscript: https://doi:10.1002/eap.2269


Citation:  Oeser, J., Heurich, M., Senf, C., Pflugmacher, D. and Kuemmerle, T. (2020), Satellite‐based habitat monitoring reveals long‐term dynamics of deer habitat in response to forest disturbances. Ecological Applications. Accepted. Author Manuscript e2269. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.2269



Photo: Rainer Simonis