University Of Tasmania
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Influence of artefacts in marine digital terrain models on habitat maps and species distribution models: a multiscale assessment

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 08:13 authored by Lecours, V, Devillers, R, Edinger, EN, Brown, CJ, Vanessa LucieerVanessa Lucieer
Remote sensing techniques are currently the main methods providing elevation data used to produce Digital Terrain Models (DTM). Terrain attributes (e.g. slope, orientation, rugosity) derived from DTMs are commonly used as surrogates of species or habitat distribution in ecological studies. While DTMs’ errors are known to propagate to terrain attributes, their impact on ecological analyses is however rarely documented. This study assessed the impact of data acquisition artefacts on habitat maps and species distribution models. DTMs of German Bank (off Nova Scotia, Canada) at five different spatial scales were altered to artificially introduce different levels of common data acquisition artefacts. These data were used in 615 unsupervised classifications to map potential habitat types based on biophysical characteristics of the area, and in 615 supervised classifications (MaxEnt) to predict sea scallop distribution across the area. Differences between maps and models built from altered data and reference maps and models were assessed. Roll artefacts decreased map accuracy (up to 14% lower) and artificially increased models’ performances. Impacts from other types of artefacts were not consistent, either decreasing or increasing accuracy and performance measures. The spatial distribution of habitats and spatial predictions of sea scallop distributions were always affected by data quality (i.e. artefacts), spatial scale of the data, and the selection of variables used in the classifications. This research demonstrates the importance of these three factors in building a study design, and highlights the need for error quantification protocols that can assist when maps and models are used in decision-making, for instance in conservation and management.


Publication title

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


John Wiley & Sons Inc

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2017 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems

Usage metrics

    University Of Tasmania