Landscape scale variation in the hydrologic niche of California coast redwood

Emily J. Francis, Gregory P. Asner, Katharine J. Mach, Christopher B. Field

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Topoclimatic diversity within forest landscapes can underlie variation in water availability, which may correspond to patterns in habitat suitability of tree species with differing hydrologic niches. However, the trade-off between the collection of data at a fine grain size over large spatial extents has limited comprehensive analyses of landscape scale variation in habitat suitability. We present a fine scale analysis of the roles of topographic gradients in moisture availability, soil water storage and fog frequency in the spatial pattern of habitat suitability for coast redwood Sequoia sempervirens, at 10 m resolution across 34 800 ha and three landscapes spanning approximately one-third of redwood's latitudinal range. A new 10 m resolution presence-absence map derived from airborne imaging spectroscopy was used to characterize current redwood distributions in three landscapes. Access to belowground moisture was assessed through four measures calculated from a high-resolution LiDAR digital elevation model, soil water storage was mapped from the USDA Soil Survey Geographic Database, and fog frequency was calculated from MODIS cloud cover data. Access to belowground moisture and fog predicted variation in suitability as redwood habitat from 22–75% and predicted redwood presence and absence at 10 m resolution with 63–74% accuracy. Across all three landscapes, redwood density consistently decreased with increasing interpolated height above a stream (IHAS), but the role of other predictors varied among the sites. Our results challenge previous assumptions that redwood habitat suitability within much coarser resolutions (800 m × 800 m) can be described by a single value. The elevated habitat suitability of sites close to streams suggests that these sites should be evaluated for their potential to become microrefugia within landscapes that may become climatically-unsuitable for redwoods at a regional scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1305-1315
Number of pages11
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • DEM
  • Global Airborne Observatory
  • hydrologic niche
  • microclimate
  • redwood
  • species distribution model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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