Biodiversity is organized hierarchically from individuals to populations to major lineages in the tree of life. This hierarchical structure has consequences for remote sensing of plant phenotypes and leads to the expectation that more distantly related plants will be more spectrally distinct. Applying remote sensing to understand ecological processes from biodiversity patterns builds on prior efforts that integrate functional and phylogenetic information of organisms with their environmental distributions to discern assembly processes and the rules that govern species distributions. Spectral diversity metrics critical to detecting biodiversity patterns expand on the many metrics for quantifying multiple dimensions of biodiversity-taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional-and can be applied at local (alpha diversity) to regional (gamma diversity) scales to examine variation among communities (beta diversity). Remote-sensing technologies stand to illuminate the nature of biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships and ecosystem service trade-offs over large spatial extents and to estimate their uncertainties. Such advances will improve our capacity to manage natural resources in the Anthropocene.
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