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Remote sensing classification has the potential to provide important information, such as tree species distribution maps, to ecologists, at a range of spatial and temporal scales. However, standard classification procedures often fail to provide the high accuracies required for many ecological applications. Previously, a modified remote sensing classification technique was used to provide very high classification accuracies for one or two classes (e.g. species) of interest. The aim of this paper was to demonstrate that the output from the method can be suitable for spatial ecological analyses, and to provide a generic simulation framework for assessing the adequacy of any given remote sensing classification for such analyses. Marked point pattern analysis (MPPA) was applied to tree species distribution data obtained for sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus and ash Fraxinus excelsior from a 400 ha ancient semi-natural woodland in southern England using the modified remote sensing classification method to test several hypotheses of ecological interest relating to the spatial distribution and interaction of these species. Monte Carlo simulation methods were then used to evaluate the data and data quality requirements of the MPPA to check that the classified tree species maps for sycamore and ash were adequate. Using the combined method the spatial distributions for sycamore and ash were found to be aggregated and inter-dependent at a range of spatial scales. Together, the remote sensing classification and simulation approaches provide the basis for exploiting more fully the potential of remote sensing to provide information of value to ecologists. © Ecography.

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