Microtopographic controls on lowland Amazonian canopy diversity from imaging spectroscopy

Jean Baptiste Féret, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations


Microtopographic variation is ubiquitous throughout lowland Amazonia, and it may impart patterns of species richness and abundance, and perhaps community compositional changes. To date, no studies have determined the degree to which lowland microtopography influences forest canopy diversity. We developed the first high-resolution maps of forest canopy diversity in Amazonia, focusing on four landscapes on two river systems in Peru. Spectroscopic images were acquired using the Carnegie Airborne Observatory combined with a new method based on spectral species to map a- and b-diversity. We analyzed spatial patterns in diversity with respect to floodplain and terrace (terra firme) surfaces and in upriver and downriver locations with contrasting landscape morphologies. We found slightly lower average a-diversity in floodplains, but with greater variance than in terrace communities caused by the floodplain mix of swamp forests, anoxic low-diversity ecosystems, and high-diversity areas. b-diversity estimated with the Bray-Curtis dissimilarity (BC) was strongly related to microtopography, with floodplains showing higher internal compositional dissimilarity than terraces. Throughout all landscapes, remotely mapped BC within terrace environments ranged from 0.25 to 0.43, but these values increased 30-77% on floodplains. Upriver landscapes characterized by higher terraces showed more distinct community turnover than did their downstream counterparts. We conclude that microtopography strongly influences b-diversity throughout the study landscapes, but terrain is weakly associated with variation in a-diversity. We uncover the importance of microtopography in determining species composition in lowland Amazonia and highlight the value of imaging spectroscopy for biodiversity research and conservation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1297-1310
Number of pages14
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Airborne imaging spectroscopy
  • Alpha diversity
  • Amazon basin
  • Beta diversity
  • Bray-Curtis index
  • Canopy diversity
  • Carnegie airborne observatory
  • Microtopography
  • Peru
  • Shannon index
  • Tropical forest canopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

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