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Wednesday, 05 November 2014 00:00

Researchers find a connection between vegetation productivity and distribution of badgers in arid areas by using satellite technologies

A scientific research team from the University of Almeria has developed a mathematic model to predict and characterize the habitat of this mammal. The satellite technology allows for continuous availability, both space in and time, of variables describing the operation of ecosystems

Scientists from the University of Almeria, headed by Javier Cabello Piñar, have investigated on the distribution area of European badger (Meles meles) in arid landscapes, focusing on the valley of the Andarax river in Almeria. "The choice of the badger as the object of study relies on the fact that this species is an indicator of changes in the use of soil in arid areas", professor Cabello reported to Fundación Descubre.

The novelty of this study is the incorporation of functional variables, in charge of the description of the ecosystem operation, and the use of satellite images to model and characterize the habitat of the badger. In order to do so, presence and density in the field were sampled so as to be compared with the information obtained by satellites.
Specifically, researchers have created a mathematical model able to bind primary productivity (greenness vegetation) and badger distribution together. The models developed by these ecologists are mathematical formulas that can characterize and make predictions of species habitat in a synthetic and simple way.

The research was published in the Landscape Ecology journal under the title Modeling spatial distribution of European badger in arid landscapes: an ecosystem functioning approach. In the article they proved that satellite technology gives a good characterization of the European badger habitat. The study results indicate that the European badger distribution obtained by models including "vegetation greenness" variables is coherent with the one described in previous research. According to researchers from Almeria, these variables have the benefit of reflecting canopy variability in the landscape and offer a quick response to environmental changes produced both in environment and soil uses.  

Yield and greenness

In order to develop the study, professor Cabello's team designed various models of spatial distribution, including, as a new feature, primary productivity of landscape data obtained by satellites.

This parameter represents the amount of solar energy that ecosystems are able to transform into trophic energy, that is, the available energy for organisms living in an ecosystem. Plants are the ones in charge of this conversion. "We used satellites for their capacity to identify the "green" matter existing on the earth's surface.” indicates the head of the study.

Advantages of the use of satellites

The satellite images used are provided free of charge every 16 days, and from them, they can obtain variables that explain how ecosystems function. "If a certain vegetation activity is related to the badger density, it is better to study satellite information than to sample in the field, as it is faster and cheaper", said Javier Cabello, director of the Andalusian Center for the Evaluation and Monitoring of Climate Change research center.

The study opens de possibility of designing monitoring programs to improve surveillance precision and to shape wild life for conservation purposes under the different scenarios of climate change.

Related images:

University of Almeria researcher, Javier Cabello Pinar, research director of the Andalusian Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring of Global Change
Equipo de investigación del profesor de la Universidad de Almería Javier Cabello
Bibliographic reference:

Juan M. Requena-Mullor,  Enrique López, Antonio J. Castro, Javier Cabello, Emilio Virgós, Emilio González-Miras, Hermelindo Castro. Modeling spatial distribution of European badger in arid landscapes: an ecosystem functioning approach. Landscape Ecology. May 2014, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 843-855

More information:

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