Multi-grain habitat models that combine satellite sensors with different resolutions explain bird species richness patterns best

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Animals select habitat at multiple spatial scales, suggesting that biodiversity modeling, for example of species richness, should be based on environmental data gathered at multiple spatial scales, and especially multiple grain sizes. Different satellite sensors collect data at different spatial resolutions and therefore provide opportunities for multi-grain habitat measures. The dynamic habitat indices (DHIs), which are derived from satellite data, capture patterns of vegetative productivity and predict bird species richness well. However, the DHIs have only been analyzed at single resolutions (e.g., 1-km), and have not yet been derived from high-resolution satellite data (< 10 -m). Our goal was to predict bird species richness based on measures of vegetation productivity (DHIs, NDVI median and NDVI percentile 90th) across a range of spatial resolutions both from different sensors, and from resampled high-resolution imagery. We analyzed bird species richness within 215 forest, grassland and shrubland plots (56.25 ha) located at 26 terrestrial field sites of the National Ecology Observatory Network (NEON), in the continental US. To obtain our multi-resolution measures of vegetation productivity, we acquired data from Planetscope (3-m), RapidEye (5-m), Sentinel-2 (10-m), Landsat-8 (30-m) and MODIS (250-m) from 2017 to 2020, generated time series of NDVI, calculated the three DHIs (cumulative, minimum and variation), NDVI median and the 90th percentile NDVI and calculated 1st and 2nd order texture measures. We evaluated the performance of the derived measures to predict bird species richness of habitat specialist guilds based on (i) univariate models (ii) multivariate models with single-resolution measures and (iii) multivariate models with multi-resolution measures. Single-spatial resolution measures predicted bird species richness moderately well (R2 up to 0.51) and the best performing spatial resolution and measure differed among bird species guilds. Highspatial resolution (3–5 m) measures outperformed medium-resolution measures (10–250 m). Models for all guilds performed best when incorporating multiple resolutions, including for all species richness (R2 = 0.63) and for forest (R2 = 0.72), grassland (R2 = 0.53) and shrubland specialists (R2 = 0.46). In addition, models based on multi-resolution data from different sensors performed better than models based on resampled high-resolution data for any of the guilds. Our results highlight, first, the value of the DHIs derived from high-resolution satellite data to predict bird species richness and, second, that remotely-sensed vegetation productivity measures from multiple spatial resolutions offer great promise for quantifying biodiversity.