Remote sensing techniques for determining landcover features: applications for a species at risk
Keywords:remote sensing, calving islands, spatial ecology, species at risk, Rangifer tarandus caribou
Remote sensing techniques are becoming more advanced and commonplace in conservation biology, and are used to study spatial patterns of various taxa. The main objective of this study was to determine whether supervised classification of landcover types within Landsat imagery could be accurately used to find or locate islands on lakes that may have been overlooked during ground transects in central Saskatchewan. Additionally, we used telemetry data from collared female caribou to determine which islands were used and in which season(s), and to determine island characteristics that make caribou more likely to select them. We were able to successfully identify all islands within bodies of water relevant to collared caribou using a supervised classification method, which suggests that our methods were adequate. We also determined that none of the island characteristics significantly influenced caribou selection according to an occupancy model, however females tended to choose islands with a higher vegetation cover (NDVI) during the summer months and a proportionally lower snow cover during the winter months, likely as forage and predator avoidance strategies respectively. Finally, we suggest directions for future studies as well as implications for both wildlife managers and land-use planners in Saskatchewan, Canada.
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