Cloud patterns may actually reveal a bit more about species habitat. Scientists have used satellite data to study cloud cover, which may help identify the size and location of important animal and plant habitats.
Clouds influence rain, sunlight, surface temperature and other factors. This means they play an important role in the environment. By studying clouds with satellite data, researchers can see where certain types of habitats may be.
Cloud cover helps researchers predict where specific species may live. By taking cloud patterns into account, scientists could determine the size and location of habitats form the montane woodcreeper, the king protea and other birds.
"When we visualized the data, it was remarkable how clearly you could see many different biomes on Earth based on the frequency and timing of cloudy days over the past 15 years," said Adam Wilson, lead scientist of the new study. "As you cross from one ecosystem into another, those transitions show up very clearly, and the exciting thing is that these data allow you to directly observe those patterns at 1-kilometer resolution."
The new findings are important, since in theory it will help researchers look at the habitats of threatened plants and animals. Knowing by how much their habitat extends means that scientists can calculate how much at risk certain species are of extinction.
"Understanding the spatial patterns of biodiversity is critical if we want to make informed decisions about how to protect species and manage biodiversity and its many functions into the future," said Walter Jertz, one of the researchers involved in the study from Yale University.
The findings show how satellites can be a great tool when it comes to conservation efforts.
"That's one of the really exciting developments in the field today," Wilson said. "We now have decades of satellite observations that we can pull together to characterize the global environment. It is exciting to now be able to tap into this large stack of detailed data to support global biodiversity and ecosystem monitoring and conservation."
The findings are important for helping conservation efforts. By knowing the extent of habitat, scientists can target efforts to help preserve species.
The findings are published in the March 2016 edition of the journal PLOS Biology.