University of Leicester
2024KhanAPhD.pdf (8.41 MB)

Habitat-centric approach for remotely assessing biodiversity in the European Coldspots

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posted on 2024-06-18, 09:49 authored by Asima Khan

As global biodiversity goals aim to expand conservation areas to 50% of Earth's surface by 2050, biodiversity coldspots, which were previously associated with lower species richness and/or habitat destruction than biodiversity hotspots but represent unique and irreplaceable habitats, are becoming more important. In this study, I explore the role of remote habitat-centric assessments in evaluating conservation needs in biodiversity coldspots of Europe using a case study approach in four ecologically and geographically distinct sites. The first analysis links the spatiotemporal changes in habitat maps to various pressures on biodiversity and changes in ecosystem functions of aboveground biomass and water yield. It identified six key pressure categories across the four sites out of which conversion, degradation, and deforestation had the most significant impact on above-ground biomass and water yield; all four sites also showed a bimodal pattern in the frequency of habitat change events. The second analysis done using InVEST’s Habitat Quality Model, showed a significant loss in habitat quality between 2000 and 2018 in sites dominated by silviculture and a positive trend in the site characterized by agricultural “ex-tensitifcation”. A strong positive correlation was observed between α-diversity and habitat quality across the medium-high habitat quality gradient, however, the model underestimated α-diversity in low-quality habitats. In the third analysis changes in Ellenberg Indicator Values of moisture and nitrogen were quantified using remote sensing methods to distinguish between site conditions in the test sites and their matched protected sites. The results showed promising results, with a high correlation observed between values generated from proxy indicators and the Ellenberg Values determined from field measurements in the literature (R2 = 0.6 for Moisture and 0.65 for Nitrogen). The study also discusses how these measures of change in habitat extent and condition can be used (individually or in combination) as early warning signs of biodiversity loss in Europe’s coldspots.



Heiko Balzter; Susan E. Page

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Geography, Geology, and the Environment

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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