Role of Sampling Design When Predicting Spatially Dependent Ecological Data With Remote Sensing

Alby D. Rocha*, T.A. Groen, A.K. Skidmore, L. Willemen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
94 Downloads (Pure)


Remote sensing opens opportunities to assess spatial patterns on ecological data for a wide range of ecosystems. This information can be used to more effectively design sampling strategies for fieldwork, either to capture the maximum spatial dependence related to the ecological data or to completely avoid it. The sampling design and the autocorrelation observed in the field will determine whether there is a need to use a spatial model to predict ecological data accurately. In this article, we show the effects of different sampling designs on predictions of a plant trait, as an example of an ecological variable, using a set of simulated hyperspectral data with an increasing range of spatial autocorrelation. Our findings show that when the sample is designed to estimate population parameters such as mean and variance, a random design is appropriate even where there is strong spatial autocorrelation. However, in remote sensing applications, the aim is usually to predict characteristics of unsampled locations using spectral information. In this case, regular sampling is a more appropriated design. Sampling based on close pairs of points and clustered over a regular design may improve the accuracy of the training model, but this design generalizes poorly. The use of spatially explicit models improves the prediction accuracy significantly in landscapes with strong spatial dependence. However, such models have low generalization capacities to extrapolate to other landscapes with different spatial patterns. When the combination of design and size results in sample distances similar to the range of the spatial dependence in the field, it increases predictions uncertainty.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9103258
Pages (from-to)663-674
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE transactions on geoscience and remote sensing
Issue number1
Early online date28 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021



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