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Modeling a Historical Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreak Using Landsat MSS and Multiple
Lines of Evidence
aU.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Fort Collins Science Center, 2150 Centre Avenue, Fort
Collins, CO 80526,
bGraduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, 1401 Campus Delivery, Fort
Collins, CO 80523, USA
cDepartment of Anthropology, Colorado State University, 1787 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins,
CO 80523, USA
dDepartment of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State University, 1472 Campus
Delivery, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
*Corresponding author at: USGS, Fort Collins Science Center, Fort Collins, CO 80526, USA.
Tel.: +1 970 226 9134.
E-mail address: (T.J. Assal).
Pre-print of published version.
Assal, T.J., Sibold, J., and R. Reich. 2014. Modeling a Historical Mountain Pine Beetle
Outbreak Using Landsat MSS and Multiple Lines of Evidence. Remote Sensing of Environment
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Mountain pine beetles are significant forest disturbance agents, capable of inducing widespread
mortality in coniferous forests in western North America. Various remote sensing approaches
have assessed the impacts of beetle outbreaks over the last two decades. However, few studies
have addressed the impacts of historical mountain pine beetle outbreaks, including the 1970s
event that impacted Glacier National Park. The lack of spatially explicit data on this disturbance
represents both a major data gap and a critical research challenge in that wildfire has removed
some of the evidence from the landscape. We utilized multiple lines of evidence to model forest
canopy mortality as a proxy for outbreak severity. We incorporate historical aerial and landscape
photos, aerial detection survey data, a nine-year collection of satellite imagery and abiotic data.
This study presents a remote sensing based framework to (1) relate measurements of canopy
mortality from fine-scale aerial photography to coarse-scale multispectral imagery and (2)
classify the severity of mountain pine beetle affected areas using a temporal sequence of Landsat
data and other landscape variables. We sampled canopy mortality in 261 plots from aerial photos
and found that insect effects on mortality were evident in changes to the Normalized Difference
Vegetation Index (NDVI) over time. We tested multiple spectral indices and found that a
combination of NDVI and the green band resulted in the strongest model. We report a two-step
process where we utilize a generalized least squares model to account for the large-scale
variability in the data and a binary regression tree to describe the small-scale variability. The
final model had a root mean square error estimate of 9.8% canopy mortality, a mean absolute
error of 7.6% and an R2 of 0.82. The results demonstrate that a model of percent canopy
mortality as a continuous variable can be developed to identify a gradient of mountain pine
beetle severity on the landscape.
1. Introduction
Temperate forest ecosystems are subject to various ecological disturbances that can have
profound effects on the structure of the ecosystem for many years after the event (Turner & Dale,
1998) and influence the likelihood, severity and spread of subsequent disturbances (Veblen et al.,
1994). In western North America, native bark beetles are a major disturbance agent capable of
regional-scale forest mortality (Raffa et al., 2008). Remotely sensed imagery has been used to
characterize such widespread disturbance events over the last two decades (Wulder et al., 2006a).
However, very little research has employed these techniques to study insect disturbance prior to
the recent period of extended outbreak (~pre late 1990s). The northern Rocky Mountains
experienced a widespread mountain pine beetle outbreak in the late 1970s to early 1980s (Logan
& Powell, 2001). However, the lack of spatially explicit data on the extent and severity of this
outbreak limits our understanding of the influence that this disturbance had on the landscape. To
overcome this challenge, we utilized multiple lines of evidence to retrospectively characterize
forest canopy mortality from the outbreak by comparing temporal changes in archived satellite
1.1 Mountain Pine Beetle Overview
The mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) is a native species found in the
western United States and Canada that attacks and reproduces in live trees (Bentz et al., 2010).
The mechanisms with which populations switch to epidemic levels are complex (Bentz et al.,
2010; Raffa et al., 2008), but include suitable host availability (amount, vigor, age and density)
and condition (Fettig et al., 2007), along with beetle population survival and growth given
thermal conditions (Powell & Logan, 2005). Epidemic populations are capable of landscape-
scale forest mortality leading to cascading effects on forest structure, species composition and
function (Raffa et al., 2008). Major host species include lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta),
ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa), and whitebark pine (P. albicaulis) (Bentz et al., 2010). Impacted
forests exhibit unique and visible characteristics at each stage of a mountain pine beetle attack
(Wulder et al., 2006a). Killed trees begin to show visible changes as the foliage changes from
green to yellow to red over the first year after the attack. The gray attack stage typically
commences three years after the attack, as most trees will have lost all needles at that time
(Wulder et al., 2006a).
1.2 Remote Sensing and Disturbance
Historical aerial photography is a valuable research tool providing detailed records of forest
landscapes over the last half century or more. Although limited in spatial extent, these records
provide a fine-scale snapshot of landscapes at one or multiple points in time. Previous studies
have successfully used aerial photos collected during two or more time periods to measure
changes in tree cover (Brown et al., 2006; Di Orio et al., 2005; Kadmon & Harari-Kremer, 1999;
Kennedy & Spies, 2004; Manier et al., 2005; Platt & Schoennagel, 2009; Strand et al., 2006).
The use of satellite multispectral imagery to map and monitor forest condition over larger
regions is also well documented (Cohen et al., 2001; Maselli, 2004; Nemani et al., 2009;
Schroeder et al., 2006; Townshend et al., 2012; Volcani et al., 2005) dating back to the early
1970s with the initiation of the Landsat program (NASA, 2013). Several studies have used aerial
photos as a surrogate for field data collection and then used that information to scale up to
satellite imagery. This technique has been accomplished to map various attributes including land
cover type (Parmenter et al., 2003), tree cover (Carreiras et al., 2006; Cohen et al., 2001; Homer
et al., 2007), and surface imperviousness (Homer et al., 2007). Photos can be used to sample
post-disturbance forest patterns, such as canopy mortality. The aerial photo reference data can be
used to bridge the gap in scale between localized tree mortality measures and the more coarse
scale of satellite imagery (Meddens et al., 2013). This hybrid approach allows for detection of
fine-scale disturbance patterns captured in the aerial photos, while taking advantage of the
multispectral and multitemporal components of Landsat imagery at the landscape scale.
Furthermore, it provides a pathway to conduct a retrospective analysis.
Ecological disturbance alters ecosystem structure by both abrupt, conspicuous change and by
gradual, slow change over some period of time. Such impacts allow remote sensing to capture
the pre- and post-landscape, and in some cases, the duration of the event. Aerial photos have
been utilized to investigate the impacts of fire (Bebi et al., 2003; Johnson & Fryer, 1987), insect
damage (Bebi et al., 2003; White et al., 2005), extreme drought (Allen & Breshears, 1998), and
blowdown (Baker et al., 2002) on forest and woodland ecosystems. At regional scales,
multispectral satellite imagery has been employed to study diverse types of forest disturbance
including fragmentation (Fuller, 2001), fire (Turner et al., 1994), drought (Huang et al., 2010)
and insect induced mortality (DeRose et al., 2011; Vogelmann et al., 2009). Numerous studies
have utilized multispectral imagery to document the extent and severity of the recent mountain
pine beetle outbreak over the last decade. Efforts range from fine-scale satellite and aerial
multispectral imagery acquired from one time period (Coops et al., 2006; Dennison et al., 2010;
Hicke & Logan, 2009; Meddens et al., 2011), to moderate resolution sensors incorporating
multiple time periods (Goodwin et al., 2008; Meddens et al., 2013; Meigs et al., 2011; Wulder et
al., 2006b).
We found few studies in the literature that used the first generation of Landsat data to detect
mountain pine beetle outbreaks or other insect-driven forest disturbance. The Landsat
Multispectral Scanner System (MSS) sensor was carried onboard the first five Landsat satellites
and provided imagery from 1972 until 1995 (NASA, 2013). Researchers in British Columbia
(Harris et al., 1978) used single date MSS imagery to detect damage caused by the Douglas-fir
tussock moth and western spruce budworm with little success. Weber et al. (1975) employed
single date MSS imagery to map mountain pine beetle damage in Ponderosa pine. Rencz and
Nemeth (1985) tested both a single date approach and a change detection approach over a six-
year period to map mountain pine beetle damage in British Columbia. Both mountain pine beetle
studies concluded that MSS imagery does not have the capability to detect beetle damage given
the spatial resolution of the imagery. However, the British Columbia study (Rencz & Nemeth,
1985) noted greater detection accuracy at sites with heavy, continuous damage, suggesting the
spatial resolution is less limiting in areas with high-severity outbreaks.
1.3 Outbreak Impacts to Forest Vegetation Spectral Properties
Living vegetation absorbs blue and red light energy, while radiation in the green and near-
infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is reflected (Jones & Vaughan, 2010).
Therefore, color-infrared photos can be used to distinguish between areas of live trees and dead
trees. As the foliage of killed trees changes during the first year after the attack, the spectral
response also begins to change (Rencz & Nemeth, 1985). At the cellular level, mortality
contributes to a reduction in foliar moisture and chlorophyll, as other pigments and cellular
structure begin to break down (Mauseth, 1988). As a result, the spectral reflectance in the red
wavelength (630-690 nm) increases, whereas the reflectance in the green wavelength (520-600
nm) decreases (Ahern, 1988).
Disturbances where large portions of forest vegetation are removed from the landscape, such
as fire and clear cutting, create a drastic change in spectral reflectance. Conversely, subtle
changes in foliage color over time may prove more difficult to detect. Nevertheless, the
phenology associated with mortality caused by an outbreak will lead to a change in satellite-
detected reflectance of the forest canopy. An analysis of multiple years of moderate spatial
resolution imagery has the potential to capture reflectance patterns before, during and after
landscape-scale disturbance events (Goodwin et al., 2008; Wulder et al., 2006a).
Multiple types of spectral indices have been employed to detect the impacts of mountain pine
beetle disturbance over the last decade. Examples of indices include the Normalized Difference
Moisture Index (Goodwin et al., 2008, 2010; Meddens et al., 2013), the Tasseled Cap (Meddens
et al., 2013), the Enhanced Wetness Disturbance Index (Skakun et al., 2003; Wulder et al.,
2006b), the Normalized Burn Ratio (Meigs et al., 2011), the Red-Green Index (RGI) (Coops et
al., 2006; Hicke & Logan, 2009; Meddens et al., 2013), the Band 5/Band 4 Ratio (Meddens et
al., 2013), and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (Meddens et al., 2013). Various
levels of success were obtained with each index. Many of these indices are derived from Landsat
TM or ETM+ imagery. However, Landsat TM imagery is not available prior to 1984 (for the
study area) and Landsat ETM+ imagery is not available before 1999. Because the outbreak that
is the focus of this study erupted in the mid-1970s, Landsat MSS imagery represents the only
available satellite imagery. Given the four multispectral bands of MSS (Table 1), we were only
able to utilize a subset of these indices.
1.4 Aerial Detection Survey Data
The US Forest Service (USFS) has been conducting annual forest health aerial detection
surveys (ADS) since the middle of the 20th century. In summary, human observers record the
type and extent of abiotic and biotic disturbances and host species onto sketch maps (Meigs et
al., 2011). The sketch maps are hard copy maps used by human observers in planes that are later
converted to digital form. This data has successfully been integrated into remote sensing
detection studies of insect disturbance (Meddens et al., 2012; Meigs et al., 2011). The Forest
Health Protection Aviation Program in USFS Region 1 (including Glacier National Park (GNP))
maintains digital files of the ADS data since 2000. Staff at GNP digitized the ADS data from
1962-1998. The data include information about insect species, host tree species, damage type,
and forest type. However, very few polygons contained information on the number of trees killed
per acre (severity), which is commonly included in contemporary ADS data and is critical to
relating outbreaks to forest processes and change. Furthermore, the disturbance polygons
identified in the ADS data were very large (e.g. > 70,000 ha). Although useful for broad-scale
monitoring, we suspect the ADS data do not represent the heterogeneous impacts of the
disturbance. Since we are interested in both the extent and severity of the disturbance, these
missing details heavily influenced the direction of this study.
1.5 Objectives
The goal of the study was to test an approach combining multiple lines of evidence to
reconstruct the extent and severity of a mountain pine beetle outbreak in a topographically
complex landscape. Furthermore, subsequent disturbance (fire) has removed evidence from large
areas of the study area. To accomplish this, we used a combination of aerial detection survey
data, historical aerial and landscape photos, National Park Service reports and a temporal
sequence of satellite imagery. Each data source has limitations in the spatiotemporal record.
However, by combining disparate sources of data across spatial and temporal scales, we aimed to
reduce the uncertainty associated with reconstructing outbreak parameters. Employing multiple
lines of evidence from independent data sources has the potential to extend the information
associated with each piece of data and create a robust composite picture of the outbreak
(Swetnam et al., 1999). Reference data was collected from aerial photos and scaled up to satellite
imagery measurements over time. We hypothesized that the impacts of the disturbance to the
forest canopy (i.e. mortality) would be captured in spatiotemporal changes in reflectance. Finally
we sought to demonstrate a novel approach in the use of existing data to assess a historic
The objectives of this study are to:
1. Relate measurements of canopy mortality from fine-scale aerial photography to coarse-
scale multispectral imagery;
2. Classify the severity of mountain pine beetle affected areas using a temporal sequence
of Landsat data and other landscape variables.
2. Methods
2.1 Study Area
The study was located in Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana, USA (Figure 1)
and chosen because of the extensive mountain pine beetle epidemic that occurred there in the
1970s (Hamel et al., 1977; McGregor et al., 1975). The park encompasses 4,080 km2 (408,000
ha) of diverse terrain on either side of the Continental Divide. Mean average annual precipitation
is 73.1 cm, and average annual maximum and minimum temperatures are 11.9 ºC and -0.2 ºC,
respectively (1971-2000) (Western Regional Climate Center, West Glacier station, elevation:
970 m,; accessed 17 December 2012). The climate averages from this
station are consistent with stations on the east side of the park. Elevation ranges from ~ 950 m to
3184 m above sea level and major cover types include grasslands, conifer and deciduous forests,
lakes, wide glacial valleys and steep alpine zones. Forests are dominated by lodgepole pine
(Pinus contorta), western larch (Larix occidentalis), Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) and
Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).
Given the size and diverse landscape of the park, we limited the study area based on several
assumptions. First, vegetation cover types not susceptible to mountain pine beetle attack were
identified using ReGAP (Davidson et al., 2009) and omitted. Second, we calculated the
cumulative extent of mountain pine beetle damage identified by the ADS data between 1971 and
1987. The area not impacted by the mountain pine beetle outbreak during the buffered time
period was omitted from further analysis. The area of interest was also confined by the extent of
available satellite imagery used in the analysis. The confined area of interest is 1195 km2
(119,552 ha) and ranges in elevation from ~ 950 m to 2960 m above sea level (Figure 1).
2.2 Aerial and Landscape Photograph Processing
Six color infrared aerial photographs were obtained in digital format from the US Geological
Survey’s Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (Figure 1). Four of the photos were
acquired in 1982 (west of the Continental Divide), two in 1984 (east of the divide). All photos
have a scale of 1:58,000 and were scanned at a resolution of 1800 dots per inch. The photos were
orthorectified to a 2009 NAIP photo (National Agriculture Imagery Program) using ground
control points (GCPs) and a 30 m digital elevation model (DEM) (Leica Photogrammetry Suite,
Erdas, Inc., Norcross, GA, USA). The average root mean square error (RMSE) for each photo
was less than two meters. We independently assessed the average displacement between each of
the orthorectified images and the 2009 NAIP image at multiple locations within each image pair.
The average displacement between both sets of images was less than two meters and deemed
We searched two landscape photographic archives (the US Geological Survey Photographic
Library and Glacier National Park Research Library) to locate additional sources with evidence
of the disturbance. We obtained several color photos taken in the late 1970s or 1980 that
contained evidence of the outbreak. In several cases the extent of the aerial color infrared photo
and the color landscape photo were congruent. We were able to match the two photos and
identify unique patterns and patches of mortality in each photo. Although this was a qualitative
analysis, the additional information provided us with concrete evidence of the disturbance in the
aerial photos (Figure 2).
2.3 Aerial Detection Survey Data
We obtained the digital version of the ADS data (1962-1998) from GNP and subset annual
shapefiles to correspond with the start of the outbreak (1971) and the last year before extensive
fires in the park (1987). We queried polygons associated with mountain pine beetle using the
Damage Causal Agent attribute code and clipped the shapefile to the extent of the park for each
year. Each annual shapefile was converted to an annual grid (30 m), snapped to the master
Landsat image, and aggregated to form a cumulative mountain pine beetle extent and used to
constrain the study area. We did examine the ADS data for other disturbance agents within the
park to ensure there were no unaccounted disturbances. However, we found very few disturbance
polygons, accounting for a very small area, within the analysis mask.
2.4 Satellite Data
Terrain corrected Level 1T MSS imagery were obtained from the USGS EarthExplorer
Archive (USGS, 2012) of the study area before, during and after the peak of the outbreak. The
imagery had been resampled by the USGS to a spatial resolution of 60 m in four spectral bands
(Table 1). We utilized nine scenes in the analysis (Table 2). Late summer data were used (late
August-September) due to availability of cloud-free imagery and the presumed relative
phenological stability of the forests during this time period (Vogelmann et al., 2009). Geometric
correction, calibration, atmospheric correction and image normalization procedures were applied
to the imagery and are fully described in Appendix A.
Given the four multispectral bands of MSS, we were only able to utilize three spectral indices
in the model evaluation process (Table 3). The GNDVI is sensitive to the presence of chlorophyll
since the green spectral region is used instead of the red region (Carreiras et al., 2006). We did
not use Band 3 as a covariate as it is often highly correlated with band 4 of MSS data. A
preliminary investigation identified that NDVI performed the best among spectral indices. In an
effort to limit redundancy in the data, we transformed the NDVI time series using principal
component analysis. The principal components were used as predictor variables in one of the
five models tested.
2.5 Sampling
We estimated beetle induced forest mortality using data collected from the aerial photos and
compared these measurements with changes in spectral values over time. We segregated the
landscape into 12 facets based on slope and aspect. These two variables influence forest
composition, tree vigor and subsequent susceptibility to mountain pine beetle (Raffa et al.,
2008). Furthermore, dividing the landscape into sub-regions of similar biophysical characteristics
can isolate spectral gradients (Homer et al., 2004). Both variables were derived from the
elevation dataset. Aspect was classified into four categories (north, east, south or west) while
slope was classified into three quantiles: low (<12%), moderate (12-29%) and high (>29%).
Initially 350 random points were proportionally allocated in each landscape class, and square
plots of 180 m x 180 m were delineated around the center of each point. The plot size was
chosen considering the spatial resolution of the satellite imagery, i.e. 3 x 3 Landsat MSS pixels.
A negative buffer was used to insure each plot was located completely within one landscape
facet, and deleted (10%) if it fell within multiple facets. In addition, limitations due to
topographic shadow or image blur from the orthorectification process warranted the omission of
some plots (13%). As a result, each landscape facet did not contain the same number of sampling
An unsupervised classification in Erdas Imagine was conducted on each air photo resulting in
20 classes. We used an iterative approach to determine the number of unsupervised classes that
maximized spectral separation without generating an unwieldy number of classes. For each plot,
we manually interpreted the 20 classes and assigned each class to live forest, dead forest, or
shadow (Figure 3). We then calculated the ratio of dead canopy cover to total canopy cover in
each plot. We omitted shadow pixels as they represent unknown cover types.
2.6 Statistical Analysis
Regression analysis can be used to explain large-scale variability, while model residuals can
be used to describe small-scale variability in the data (Cressie, 1993). We used a generalized
linear model (GLM, Gaussian distribution, Identity link function) to identify a set of explanatory
variables to estimate canopy cover change on the sample plots over time. Predictor variables
included spectral indices derived from nine years of Landsat MSS data, topography (elevation,
slope, aspect and topographic position index), and variables derived from the ADS data (first
year detected, last year detected and total number of years detected). Aspect and the variables
derived from the aerial survey data were treated as indicator variables in the analysis. Aspect was
binned into four classes: North (0-45º; 315-365º), East (45-135º), South (135-225º), and West
(225-315º). Three categorical variables were derived from the aerial survey data: first year of
attack (early, mid, or late in the outbreak), last year of attack (early, mid, or late in the outbreak)
and total number of years recorded during the outbreak (low, moderate, or high).
We tested five models in our analysis using different combinations of vegetation indices as
the primary biotic variables. For each model, a stepwise selection by Akaike’s Information
Criterion (AIC) was used to identify the best subset of independent variables to include in the
regression models (R Development Core Team, 2011). The aspect variable was allowed to
interact with the primary vegetation index in each model. We evaluated the models through
consideration of AIC, the mean absolute error of prediction (MAE) and the root mean square
error of prediction (RMSE). Furthermore, a ten-fold cross validation procedure (DAAG package
in R) was employed to calculate the prediction error of each model.
Residual error from the regression model can be utilized to describe the small-scale
variability in the data (Manier et al., 2005; Reich et al., 2011). Model residuals may still contain
useful information that can be utilized to gain precision in estimation (Pongpattananurak et al.,
2012). We modeled the residual error from the selected regression model using a binary
regression tree. We tested the residuals of the selected GLM model and the regression tree model
for spatial autocorrelation using the Moran’s I statistic (Legendre & Fortin, 1989). The sampled
plots were clustered on the landscape into three distinct groups based on the availability of the
aerial photos. We assumed points between each cluster were spatially independent and employed
a block diagonal spatial weights matrix (Upton & Fingleton, 1985) to account for the clustered
nature of the plots. We used inverse distance to define the neighborhood structure of the three
spatial weights matrices (one for each cluster).
The residuals of the GLM-CART model exhibited spatial autocorrelation. We addressed
the issue by running the regression analysis using a Generalized Least Squares (GLS) model. A
variogram was fit using the residuals of the GLM model to describe the degree of spatial
dependence in the residuals. A Gaussian variogram model was fit to the sample variogram using
least squares to estimate the nugget, sill and range. The GLS regression was used to estimate the
parameters of the trend surface model in the presence of spatial autocorrelation. We allowed plot
location (east or west of the Continental Divide) to enter the model to test if the outbreak impacts
were different on either side of the divide. We used the residuals of the GLS to model the small-
scale variation in the data using binary regression trees as described above.
After parameterizing and validating the models, forest canopy change was projected to
the landscape area of interest in three steps. First a trend surface was created from the parameters
of the GLS model using the raster calculator in ArcGIS. Next, a surface of the residuals
generated from the regression tree model was created using a series of conditional statements in
the raster calculator. Finally, the trend and residual surfaces were added together to create a
continuous surface of forest canopy change scaled between 0 and 1. Areas of cloud cover, cloud
shadow and topographic shadows represent uncertainty and were omitted from the analysis. Only
two years of data (1978 and 1983) contained sparse clouds, but topographic shadows were
present in all years. We applied a NDVI threshold (< 0.2) to remove clouds and topographic
shadows (Hicke & Logan, 2009) and cloud shadows were manually delineated and removed.
3. Results
3.1 Aerial Detection Survey Data
Our analysis of the aerial survey data indicates the outbreak was first identified in 1971 in the
north-west portion of the park in very small isolated patches. The outbreak continued to spread
from these centers until the mid-1970s when it was reported widely across the western portion of
the park (Figure 4). There was no data available for 1975, and the following year the area
affected by beetles significantly expanded on the western side of the park. The aerial survey
continued to report large areas impacted from 1977 through 1980. The outbreak was first
identified east of the Continental Divide in the north central and north east portion of the park in
1979. In the early 1980s, the area affected by beetles quickly decreased (Figure 5).
3.2 Determination of Tree Canopy Cover
A total of 261 plots were used to estimate tree canopy mortality from the air photo analysis
(Table 4). Initially, 282 plots were analyzed, but several were removed from the data set because
the photo plots fell within topographic shadows, cloud cover or cloud shadows in the satellite
imagery. The study area is dominated by west facing slopes, followed by south, east and north.
Each aspect class did not contain the same number of plots (see Section 2.5). However, the
number of plots in each aspect class is an adequate reflection of the percentage of the study area
in each aspect class. Plots ranged from very little mortality (4.4%) to nearly complete mortality
(99.8%). West-facing plots had the highest mean mortality (68.3%), while plots in the east aspect
class had the lowest mean mortality (49.4%) (Table 4). The majority of the data is concentrated
in mortality classes ranging from 40-90% (Figure 6). Given the severity and extent of the
outbreak, this is not an unexpected finding.
3.3 Model Adjustment and Validation
The model that employed NDVI and the Green Band (NDVI+G) (Table 5) provided the best
estimation of canopy change over time. This model had the lowest AIC (-237.55), MAE
(10.8%), and RMSE (13.6%) values while accounting for the greatest amount of explained
variability (65.4%) (Table 5). Furthermore this model had the lowest prediction error (15.4%) of
any model from the cross validation procedure. The incorporation of a green band resulted in a
stronger model than using NDVI alone (Table 5). The NDVI and PCA models had identical
coefficients of determination, and similar MAE and RMSE. However, the PCA model had
substantially higher prediction error. The GNDVI model did not perform as well as the three
NDVI based models and the red-green index proved to be a poor indicator of mortality.
The NDVI+G model was selected to describe the large-scale variability of canopy change
over time. However, the residuals of the GLM model exhibited spatial autocorrelation (Moran’s I
test; p < 0.0001) indicating that the null hypothesis of spatial independence in the residuals be
rejected. The variables included in the NDVI+G model were then analyzed using a GLS model
that explained 62% of the variability with higher MAE (18%) and RMSE (21.1%) than the GLM
model (Table 6, Figure 7). However, the residuals of the GLS model did not exhibit spatial
autocorrelation (Moran’s I test; p =0.64). The green band from 1978 was the most important
predictor west of the Continental Divide, with a relative contribution to the model of 10.7%. The
green band from 1987 was the most important predictor east of the divide, with a relative
contribution to the model of 11.8%. Decreased values of green band reflectance indicated a
substantial increase in canopy mortality. NDVI from 1977 and 1981 were highly significant in
the model on the west side of the park (p<0.001) and also exhibited a negative relationship with
canopy mortality. NDVI from 1977 was also significant on the east side of the park.
The residuals were used to model the small-scale variation in the data using binary regression
trees. The initial regression tree identified 27 nodes and location (east or west of divide) did not
enter the analysis, so one tree was used to fit both sides of the Continental Divide. Given that
regression trees are prone to overfitting, we conducted a 10-fold cross validation on the data and
subsequently pruned the tree to 22 nodes. This simplified the model while still accounting for
spatial autocorrelation. The combined model (GLS + CART), which captures both the large- and
small-scale variability, had a lower rate of MAE (7.6%) and RMSE (9.8%) than the GLS model.
The combined model increased the amount of explained variability in the data by nearly 20% (R2
= 0.819) (Figure 8). The residuals of the combined model are spatially independent (Lagrange
multiplier test; p=0.27) and the standardized mean square error (SMSE) of the combined model
is 0.996. An SMSE value of one indicates consistency between the estimation error variance and
the observed error variance in the model (Hevesi et al., 1992).
The combined model was then applied spatially to the study area as a continuous surface
with modeled canopy cover change scaled between 0 and 1. We binned the modeled data into
three categories based on natural breaks in the data (Figure 9). This classification resulted in 20%
of the project area in the low category (< 0.37 canopy change), 46% in the moderate and 34% in
the severe category (>0.62 canopy change). Pockets of high severity are found throughout the
park across the elevation gradient present. The three classes are generally represented across the
study area. However, it should be noted that pockets of low and severe impacts are clustered,
with the moderate severity often forming a transition between the classes.
To provide perspective on the classification, a color-infrared photo and corresponding
classification map is shown in Figure 10. Based on these visual comparisons, our model appears
to capture high levels of mortality associated with beetle attack areas as well as areas not as
heavily impacted. Furthermore, the gradient of impact on the landscape appears to be well
represented in the model. Example spectral trajectories of the three classes show clear
delineation during extent of the outbreak (Figure 11).
4. Discussion
A primary objective of our analysis was to develop a methodology to reconstruct the extent
and severity of the outbreak. We were able to identify a gradient of mortality on the landscape
using changes in NDVI and the green band reflectance over time. Our findings confirm the
outbreak was not homogenous across the landscape (Figure 9). The reported error metrics are
reasonable given limitations in the data and comparable to related studies of insect impacts on
the forest canopy (Townsend et al., 2012). Error associated with the ADS data was not
quantified. Furthermore, this information was collected by observers presumably working under
difficult conditions. Therefore we suggest our model represents an unbiased view of the
disturbance. In addition, the modeling framework we applied in this study should be transferable
to other areas with similar forest disturbance characteristics.
This study builds on the ideology of many of the aforementioned studies which used
remotely sensed data to document various stages of the late 1990s-mid 2000s mountain pine
beetle outbreak. The common theme is the development of a time series imagery stack to assess
spectral changes over time (Goodwin et al., 2008; Meddens et al., 2013; Meigs et al., 2011). Our
normalization process gave us high confidence in the time series stack, given the consistent
reflectance values of the pseudo-invariant features over time (Figure 11). However, we were
unable to utilize many of the vegetation indices (e.g. Normalized Difference Moisture Index)
used in these studies. Given that our study objectives hinged around a historic disturbance that
occurred in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, we were unable to use imagery with the spectral
resolution needed for many of those indices. The major difference in our study and those
described in section 1.3, is that the disturbance we are interested in occurred in the 1970s and
early 1980s. This predates the advent of Landsat TM/ETM+ imagery and other finer scale
imagery employed in those studies.
There were two main differences between our study and those that used MSS data (Harris et
al., 1978; Rencz & Nemeth, 1985; Weber et al., 1975). First, we attempted to capture the
gradient of the disturbance on a continuous scale between 0 and 1. Second, we employed
multiple time periods of imagery to assess spectral changes at sites over time. Although Rencz
and Nemeth (1985) used a change detection procedure, there was a gap of six years between
images. The use of just two images was likely insufficient to capture the full range of phenology
associated with the disturbance from pre-attack through the green, red and gray stages, followed
by the likely expansion of understory growth following canopy mortality. Conducting a
retrospective analysis afforded us several advantages over the prior MSS studies. The Landsat
archive is now readily available at no cost, removing the financial burden that inhibited prior
investigators from developing a time series imagery stack (Woodcock et al., 2008). Furthermore,
advances in radiometric calibration provide a basis for standardized comparison between images
acquired on different dates and by different sensors (Chander et al., 2009).
There are several strengths associated with our study that allowed us to overcome numerous
limitations. Overall, we provide an objective framework that can be applied to other areas, at
other time periods, involving other types of forest disturbance. The major limitation of
quantifying a disturbance over a large, topographically complex landscape where subsequent fire
has erased some of the evidence was overcome using existing data. The remote sensing archive
allowed us to extract information about the condition of the forest canopy across spatiotemporal
scales. By employing multiple lines of evidence, each independent data source contributed to a
composite picture of the disturbance (Swetnam et al., 1999). Several key factors led to a
successful analysis. The first was employing a mask to restrict the area of analysis (Garrity et al.,
2013) to forest types where mountain pine beetle had the potential to impact. The second critical
element was the development of a normalized time series of reflectance (Townsend et al., 2012;
Vogelmann et al., 2012) to characterize changes over time. We obtained many more images (24)
than we ultimately used (9), but this was necessary to conduct an exhaustive evaluation of
available imagery. The consistent level of pre-processing performed on the imagery by the
USGS and our procedure to convert data to at-surface reflectance aided in the success.
Furthermore, the image acquisition dates were within a six-week window, which limited intra-
year differences. The final critical element was the development of a novel approach to measure
mortality in available aerial photos and scale up to multiple years of satellite imagery. This
procedure was crucial given the absence of field data.
The absence of validation data in this study precluded the use of the holdout method where
the data is separated into a training set and test set. We evaluated the suite of GLM models using
several common measures, including a ten-fold cross validation procedure. Cross validation
divides the data into k subsets of approximately equal size and the holdout method is repeated k
times (Salzberg, 1997). There are strengths and weaknesses to this method that is commonly
used in ecological studies. Cross validation is advantageous because it is less critical how the
data are divided, every point is used in the test set once, and each point is used in the training set
k-1 times. Disadvantages of the method include computation time and trade-offs between
variance and bias, dependent on the number of iterations (Kohavi, 1995). Furthermore, there is
only one data set involved in the cross validation, regardless of the number of subsets created
(Esbensen & Geladi, 2010).
4.1 Ecological Considerations
In areas where mountain pine beetle disturbance induces high mortality in the forest canopy
over a short time period, there will be a relatively quick change in NDVI. Therefore these areas
will have a heightened chance of detection by remote sensing methods. In addition, the release of
light, nutrients and moisture will occur at one time period. Therefore the flush of understory
growth will likely occur over a relatively short time period. This increases the likelihood of
obtaining a tight sequence of images to detect these rapid changes. Given the high severity of the
impact, the model identified large negative relative contributions of the green band in the 1970s
on the west side of the divide, indicative of an increase in canopy mortality. However, the 1987
green band was significant, with a large positive relative contribution to the model. This can be
interpreted ecologically in that there was a sharp increase in canopy mortality during the late
1970s, but understory growth was prevalent in these high severity areas by the late 1980s. The
outbreak moved from the west to east over the divide. The 1987 green band had a large negative
contribution to the east side model, suggesting recent canopy mortality dominated the spectral
signature, while understory regrowth was likely not widespread.
However, the impacts of mountain pine beetle disturbance on the forest canopy do not
always exhibit characteristics that are easily identified by remote sensing methods. Areas that
have lower amounts of mortality will be composed of a mix of live and dead trees resulting in a
gradient of mortality over the duration of the disturbance. As trees die over this time period, they
will likely be interspersed with live trees. Given that the spectral response of a pixel is an
amalgamation of all elements present (Lefsky & Cohen, 2003), there will be a smaller change in
reflectance. Additionally, as individual trees die, the release of resources will impact a smaller
area of understory regrowth. The localized understory regrowth could offset or suppress the
change in reflectance associated with canopy mortality. This problem is manifested on the
landscape as the cycle of canopy mortality, resource release, and understory flush could be
occurring simultaneously in localized areas.
Several ecological phenomena could pose challenges to this methodology, particularly if the
recent disturbance history of the study area is unknown. Other disturbances could be identified
by this method, without being attributed to mountain pine beetle. We were able to incorporate
ancillary data about the mountain pine beetle outbreak such as ADS data, park reports and
knowledge from park staff to supplement the primary imagery method. Harvest events typically
have sharp geometric boundaries (Goodwin et al., 2008) that often persist in reflectance patterns
for quite some time after the event. Unknown fires that are low severity or small in area could be
difficult to segregate from insect disturbance mortality, particularly if the event corresponds with
a gap in satellite imagery. Other insect disturbances such as mortality or defoliation events in the
study area could be detected as well (Meigs et al., 2011; Townsend et al., 2012). We analyzed
the Damage Causal Agent attribute code of the aerial survey data and found nearly no other
disturbance types recorded within the study area during the time periods 1971-87. Given that our
objective was to detect landscape-scale mortality associated with a widespread, high-severity
disturbance, we were not concerned with these small disturbances.
Periods of drought and fluctuations in hydrologic year (Oct.-Sept.) precipitation could impact
inter-annual indices of vegetation reflectance in areas of low mortality. However, our
normalization procedure should account for some of these differences between imagery years.
The establishment of appropriate reference conditions of an area remains a challenge in
ecological studies (Millar et al., 2007). Finally, all of the aforementioned challenges are made
more complex when attempting to conduct a retrospective analysis of historical forest
4.2 Technical Considerations
The technological challenges associated with this study are centered on the spatial, temporal
and spectral resolution of the aerial photographs and satellite imagery. Although we were
constrained to the use of best available data for the time period, consideration of some of the
shortcomings is necessary. We used aerial photographs collected in 1982 (four) and 1984 (two).
The scale of each photograph (1:58,000) is relatively coarse and does not allow for the
identification of an individual tree crown. However, we believe the size of the photo plots (180
m x 180 m) was adequate to characterize the level of mortality within a stand. Given that our
objective was to measure canopy mortality, we were confined to using color-infrared
photographs. We would have considered natural color photographs if they had been available in
the archive. There were additional photographs available in the archive that were not selected
due to a combination of acquisition date, coarse resolution and gray scale film. Although
nominal, there are acquisition costs associated with historic aerial photos, and the
orthorecticfication process can be time consuming.
Additional landscape photographs would have been extremely helpful. However, we were
limited by those that were taken by park staff at the end of the outbreak and housed in the
National Park Service archive. Although they were not used in a quantitative analysis, they
provided valuable evidence of the impact of disturbance.
The Landsat MSS imagery employed in this study is also subject to spatial, temporal and
spectral constraints. Although we resampled the MSS imagery to 30 m to aid in the
georectification process, the native resolution is significantly lower. Pixel values are a mixture of
ground elements (Lefsky & Cohen, 2003), and given the coarse spatial resolution, MSS imagery
is limiting to the amount of mortality that can be detected at one pixel between multiple time
periods. Therefore, areas that experienced low mortality may have been underestimated by our
model. The temporal limitations of the image archive are two-fold. The study may have
benefited from a higher frequency of images collected every calendar year and additional image
years to establish pre-outbreak conditions. However, it was not tenable to alleviate these
constraints given the available imagery and the timing of the disturbance. The spectral resolution
of MSS imagery is limited compared to TM/ETM+ imagery. Many of the indices that have been
successfully applied to recent outbreaks are developed from a wider spectral range than that of
MSS. All of these factors may limit the sensitivity of the study to detect different levels of
mortality, especially low levels of mortality. However, given the scale and severity of the
disturbance, coupled with the dense imagery stack that was assembled, we were still able to
achieve acceptable results.
The Tasseled Cap transformation for Landsat data has been used to distill information from
Landsat imagery in forest disturbance mapping (Healey et al., 2005). However, we did not use
the Tasseled Cap transformation in our analysis. Unlike Landsat TM and ETM+, Tasseled Cap
coefficients have not been developed for MSS imagery that has been converted to reflectance
data (Schowengerdt, 2007). Our normalization process depended on normalized reflectance
values and not Digital Numbers. The established Tasseled Cap transformation can only be
applied to Landsat MSS imagery in Digital Numbers.
We chose to classify the continuous output into three categories based on natural breaks in
the data. Although relative differences are taken into account, the threshold between each class is
somewhat subjective. Prior investigators have used lower thresholds (low <= 10%, moderate
(11-29%), and severe > 30% of stands killed) (Aukema et al., 2006) or additional classes of
mortality severity (e.g. trace, light, moderate, severe, and very severe) (Meddens et al., 2012).
However, these two studies were considering ADS data which contained a measure of the
number of trees or the percentage of stand killed. This type of classification scheme does not
translate directly to our model. For example, if 15% of the trees were killed in a localized area, it
could have a large impact on the reflectance of those pixels and overestimate the severity. This
issue could be exacerbated by the coarse resolution of Landsat MSS pixels. Given that there is no
precedent for this type of analysis we opted for a natural break classification scheme.
Our modeling framework was exhaustive in using multiple lines of evidence that represented
the best available data. Our model incorporated the full extent of available spectral reflectance in
MSS imagery (green, red and near infrared bands). Only band 3 was discarded given that it was
highly correlated with band 4. Furthermore, the spectral information used by the model can be
readily interpreted. NDVI is a commonly used index to assess ecological change (Pettorelli et al.,
2005) and its behavior can be reasonably predicted from plant physiology theory (Garrity et al.,
2013). Plant material containing chlorophyll reflects in the green wavelength. The reflectance in
the green band would be expected to decrease as the amount of chlorophyll in a pixel is reduced
from plant mortality. Therefore, the inclusion of the green band provides a measure of the
amount of chlorophyll present within a pixel over time.
5. Conclusions
We have presented a framework that incorporates multiple lines of evidence to
retrospectively characterize a landscape scale mountain pine beetle disturbance. Furthermore, we
have demonstrated that Landsat MSS data is a valuable tool to extend the moderate resolution
imagery record back to the early 1970s. We conclude that our approach is suitable to characterize
the extent and severity of the event despite initial data limitations. Key considerations of the
application of our model include the size and severity of the disturbance, as well as the timing
(first date, last date, and duration) of the satellite imagery. Our approach captures the
characteristics of a disturbance event that significantly impacts numerous ecological processes.
Given the availability of these data sources, the characterization of recent events will afford
investigators additional tools to study disturbance interactions and ecological legacies at the
landscape scale.
This research was supported by an NPS grant through the Rocky Mountains Cooperative
Ecosystem Studies Unit (IMR H1200090004), logistical support was provided by the USGS Fort
Collins Science Center, and satellite imagery provided by the USGS Earth Resources
Observation Systems Data Center. We gratefully acknowledge Jeffrey Morisette and two
anonymous reviewers for their comments that helped to improve the manuscript. We thank the
following people for discussion on research direction and/or provision of data: Dennis Divoky,
Sheree West, Jeff Hicke, Michael O’Donnell, Dan Manier, Alexandra Urza and Sayat
Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply
endorsement by the U.S. Government.
Table 1. Spectral characteristics of Landsat MSS imagery (NASA, 2013).
Spectral Region
500-600 nm
600-700 nm
700-800 nm
800-1100 nm
Table 2. Satellite imagery scene information and acquisition date used in the analysis.
Scene Path/Row
Acquisition Date (year-month-day)
Landsat 1
Landsat 1
Landsat 2
Landsat 2
Landsat 3
Landsat 3
Landsat 2
Landsat 4
Landsat 5
Table 3. Spectral indices calculated with the Landsat MSS reflectance data; NDVI (Normalized
Difference Vegetation Index), RGI (Red Green Index), and GNDVI (Green Normalized
Difference Vegetation Index).
Spectral Index
Rousse et al. 1974
Coops et al. 2006
Gitelson et al. 1996
Table 4. Descriptive statistics of estimated tree canopy mortality from the aerial photo plots
grouped by aspect class (n=261).
Number of
Tree Canopy Mortality Statistics
Table 5. Comparison of model evaluation metrics.
10-fold Cross
Validation Prediction
Table 6. Predictor variables used in the NDVI + G GLS model. Estimates of the model
parameters are listed for the west and east sides accordingly. The variables Aspect and Total # of
Years (low was the only category retained in the stepwise model) were treated as indicator
variables in the analysis. *P-value is significant at 0.05 or lower.
West Coefficient
East Coefficient
Total # of Years - Low
ndvi.1973 x N
ndvi.1974 x N
ndvi.1978 x N
ndvi.1978 x W
ndvi.1979 x N
ndvi.1979 x S
ndvi.1979 x W
ndvi.1981 x S
ndvi.1981 x W
ndvi.1983 x N
Figure 1. Location of study area and extent of aerial photo coverage. Background image is
Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) Imagery (bands 3, 2, 1) acquired on August 25, 2010.
Yellow polygons represent the location and extent of aerial photograph coverage; tan area
represents the confined study area.
Figure 2. (Left) Landscape photo taken in the Summer of 1980 showing a mixture of live and
dead trees in the red attack stage in Waterton Valley (source: Glacier National Park
Research Library). (Right) A color-infrared aerial photo of the same area acquired in
October 1980 (source: NASA/Glacier National Park). The mosaic of live and dead forest
can be identified in both images. The letters correspond to the same area in each photo (A =
stream confluence, B = small patch of live trees, surrounded by dead forest, C = linear
ribbon of dead forest).
Figure 3. (A) Plot used to sample aerial photos. The 180 m x 180 m plot size was chosen to
include a 3 x 3 block of Landsat MSS pixels. (B) Sampling plot overlaid on color infrared
photo at a low mortality site. (D) Sampling plot overlaid on color infrared photo at a high
mortality site. (C) Output classification from sampling plot in panel B (live canopy cover =
83%). (E) Output classification from sampling plot in panel D (live canopy cover = 10%).
Figure 4. Mapped area impacted by mountain pine beetle according to the aerial detection survey
data. Note: there was no data available for 1975.
Figure 5. Area impacted by mountain pine beetle annually based on aerial detection survey data.
Note: there was no data available for 1975.
Figure 6. Histogram of canopy tree mortality (%) for all plots (n=261).
Figure 7. The output of the NDVI+G GLS model used to estimate canopy change over time due
to mortality.
Figure 8. The output of the combined GLS-CART model used to estimate canopy change over
time due to mortality.
Figure 9. The output of the spatial model classified into three severity levels.
Figure 10. (Left) Color-infrared photo (year acquired = 1982). (Right) Classified map result of
the same area (focal window applied). Black polygons correspond to spectral trajectories in
Figure 11 (A=Moderate, B=Severe, C=Low). Note: tick marks are spaced on a 2 km grid;
black polygons are 0.2 km2 (20 hectares) in size.
Figure 11. Spectral trajectories of classified outbreak severity. The three trajectories correspond
to the polygons identified in Figure 10. Note: rock features are included to demonstrate the
success of the image normalization process and the stability of pseudo-invariant features over
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Appendix A. Satellite Image Processing
A.1. Geometric Correction
Twenty GCPs were established to compare the spatial accuracy between the 2009 NAIP
photo and a 2010 Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) image of the study area. We used the
AutoSync module in Erdas Imagine to georectify the image to the 2009 photo (RMSE < 0.5
pixel). The process was repeated to georectify each of the nine Landsat MSS images to the 2010
TM image. Each MSS image had an RMSE < 0.4 pixel and was resampled to 30 m during the
georectification process using a nearest neighbor transformation to minimize geometric offsets in
the image stack (Goodwin et al., 2008). However, the spatial resolution of the data is still
considered 60 m.
A.2. Calibration
Radiometric calibration of imagery is an important step for creating a consistent, high-
quality temporal image series. We converted the four bands of each image from Digital Numbers
to absolute units of at-sensor spectral radiance using the formula (Chander et al., 2009):
Lλ = (LMAXλ – LMINλ / Qcalmax – Qcalmin) * (Qcal – Qcalmin) + LMINλ (A1)
Lλ = Spectral radiance at the sensor’s aperture [W/(m2 sr µm)]
Qcal = Quantized calibrated pixel value [DN]
Qcalmin = Minimum quantized calibrated pixel value corresponding to LMINλ [DN]
Qcalmax = Maximum quantized calibrated pixel value corresponding to LMAXλ [DN]
LMINλ = Spectral at-sensor radiance that is scaled to Qcalmin [W/(m2 sr µm)]
LMAXλ = Spectral at-sensor radiance that is scaled to Qcalmax [W/(m2 sr µm)]
The spectral radiance values were converted to Top-Of-Atmosphere (TOA) reflectance
to account for differences in sensor and viewing angle using the formula (Chander et al., 2009):
ρλ = π * Lλ * d2 / ESUNλ * cosθs (A2)
ρλ = Planetary TOA reflectance [unitless]
π = Mathematical constant equal to ~3.14159 [unitless]
Lλ = Spectral radiance at the sensor’s aperture [W/(m2 sr µm)]
d = Earth-Sun distance [astronomical units]
ESUNλ = Mean exoatmospheric solar irradiance [W/(m2 µm)]
θs = Solar zenith angle [degrees]
Inputs used in the formulas above were supplied by the header file (.MTL) for each scene
and Chander et al. (2009).
A.3. Atmospheric Correction
Each image was snapped to the reference image (1979 image) in ArcGIS to ensure each
30 m pixel for every year was exactly congruent with the master image. An absolute
normalization was applied to the 1979 master image using a dark object subtraction technique
(Chavez 1988). The minimum pixel value of each band (recorded in at least 1000 pixels),
representing deep glacial lakes and shadows, was identified (Chavez, 1996). The theoretical
radiance of a dark object is assumed to have 1% reflectance (Chavez, 1996; Moran et al., 1992)
so the minimum identified pixel value was multiplied by 0.99 to generate the presumed dark
object of each image band.
A.4. Relative Normalization
The remaining images were normalized to the master image using a relative
normalization technique. This procedure removes non-surface noise and improves the temporal
homogeneity between images so that spectral change associated with surface phenomena can be
detected (Yuan & Elvidge, 1996). Pseudo-Invariant Features (PIFs) are targets in each image that
are not expected to change between image dates (Schott et al., 1988). Relative normalization is
based on the assumption that a linear relationship exists between the reference image and the
image to be normalized (Schott et al., 1988; Yuan & Elvidge, 1996). This technique has been
applied in many studies to analyze vegetation change (Bradley & Fleishman, 2008; Schroeder et
al., 2006; Vicente-Serrano et al., 2008). We identified 60 PIFs that encompassed a range of
pseudo-invariant reflectance values in each band. Each PIF was 32,400 m2 in size; equivalent to
a 3x3 block of 60 m Landsat MSS pixels. The mean of the reflectance values at these sites were
used to fit an ordinary least squares regression model between the image to be normalized for
each year and the reference image for each of the four bands. We tested the residuals for spatial
autocorrelation using the Moran’s I statistic and the Likelihood Ratio Test (Legendre & Fortin,
1989). Inverse distance was used to define the neighborhood structure of the spatial weights
matrix. If spatial autocorrelation was detected, a spatially autoregressive model was used to fit
the data (Cressie, 1993). In all cases, the fit of lines used to spectrally align the images had R2
values > 0.92. Statistical analysis was conducted using the r package (R Development Core
Team, 2011) and the linear regression was applied to each image in Erdas Imagine.
... The methods used in each step can be replaced by different methods if more suitable ones are available, and we provide a recommendation based on our evaluation result and selection criteria according to our experience to look for an appropriate method. Although there are a number of works that have already used machine learning techniques and remote sensing data to model the spatial distribution of an outbreak [14,[21][22][23], the existing processes may not be generalized as they provide no recommendations on how to select the methods. This paper aims to address the following questions: (1) how can machine learning algorithms perform in identifying the occurrence and mapping the distribution of PWN disease and which is the best model for predicting the probability of presence and the risk levels of PWN? (2) What factors are potential important driving factors affecting the occurrence of PWN? ...
... According to the researches on the pest influence on large areas [14,21,22,27], the topographic variables, vegetation condition variables, the distribution of forest type, and human imprint variables were derived as driving factors to model the relationship with pest occurrence. In this research, we collected the topographic data, the forest type information, human imprint data, and vegetation indices which reflect the vegetation conditions to derive predictors. ...
Full-text available
Pine wood nematode (PWN), Bursaphelenchus xyophilus, originating from North America, has caused great ecological and economic hazards to pine trees worldwide, especially affecting the coniferous forests and mixed forests of masson pine in subtropical regions of China. In order to prevent PWN disease expansion, the risk level and susceptivity of PWN outbreaks need to be predicted in advance. For this purpose, we established a prediction model to estimate the susceptibility and risk level of PWN with vegetation condition variables, anthropogenic activity variables, and topographic feature variables across a large-scale district. The study was conducted in Dangyang City, Hubei Province in China, which was located in a subtropical zone. Based on the location of PWN points derived from airborne imagery and ground survey in 2018, the predictor variables were conducted with remote sensing and geographical information system (GIS) data, which contained vegetation indices including normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), normalized difference moisture index (NDMI), normalized burn ratio (NBR), and normalized red edge index (NDRE) from Sentinel-2 imagery in the previous year (2107), the distance to different level roads which indicated anthropogenic activity, topographic variables in including elevation, slope, and aspect. We compared the fitting effects of different machine learning algorithms such as random forest (RF), K-neighborhood (KNN), support vector machines (SVM), and artificial neural networks (ANN) and predicted the probability of the presence of PWN disease in the region. In addition, we classified PWN points to different risk levels based on the density distribution of PWN sites and built a PWN risk level model to predict the risk levels of PWN outbreaks in the region. The results showed that: (1) the best model for the predictive probability of PWN presence is the RF classification algorithm. For the presence prediction of the dead trees caused by PWN, the detection rate (DR) was 96.42%, the false alarm rate (FAR) was 27.65%, the false detection rate (FDR) was 4.16%, and the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) was equal to 0.96; (2) anthropogenic activity variables had the greatest effect on PWN occurrence, while the effects of slope and aspect were relatively weak, and the maximum, minimum, and median values of remote sensing indices were more correlated with PWN occurrence; (3) modeling analysis of different risk levels of PWN outbreak indicated that high-risk level areas were the easiest to monitor and identify, while lower incidence areas were identified with relatively low accuracy. The overall accuracy of the risk level of the PWN outbreak was identified with an AUC value of 0.94. From the research findings, remote sensing data combined with GIS data can accurately predict the probability distribution of the occurrence of PWN disease. The accuracy of identification of high-risk areas is higher than other risk levels, and the results of the study may improve control of PWN disease spread.
... The user and producer accuracies were also calculated through a confusion matrix [16]. A kappa coefficient of more than 0.8 indicates a satisfactory accuracy of classified images, i.e. classified images are analogous to the reference data [46][47][48][49][50]. ...
... In general, highly productive healthy vegetation exhibits high NDVI values (close to +1), e.g. forests exhibit values ranging from 0.6 to 0.8 [49], whereas lowly productive vegetation exhibits NDVI values close to 0, e.g. shrubs and grasslands exhibit values between 0.2 and 0.3 [58,60]. ...
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Mining for resources extraction may lead to several geological and associated environmental changes due to ground movements, collision with mining cavities and deformation of aquifers. Geological changes may continue in a reclaimed mine area, and the deformed aquifers may entail a breakdown of substrates and an increase in ground water tables, which may cause surface area inundation. Consequently, a reclaimed mine area may experience surface area collapse, i.e. subsidence, and degradation of vegetation health. Thus, monitoring short-term landscape dynamics in a reclaimed mine area may provide important information on the long-term geological and environmental impacts of mining activities. We studied landscape dynamics in Kirchheller Heide, Germany, which experienced extensive soil movement due to longwall mining without stowing, using Landsat imageries between 2013 and 2016. A Random Forest image classification technique was applied to analyse land-use and land-cover dynamics and the growth of wetland areas was assessed using a Spectral Mixture Analysis (SMA). We also analyzed the changes in vegetation health using a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). We observed a 19.9% growth of wetland area within the four years with 87.2% of growth in the coverage of two major waterbodies in the reclaimed mine area. NDVI values indicate that 66.5% of the vegetation of the study area was degraded due to changes in ground water tables and surface flooding. Our results inform environmental management and mining reclamation authorities about the subsidence spots and priority mitigation areas from land surface and vegetation degradation in Kirchheller Heide.
... Most studies assessing bark beetle infestations via satellite remote sensing have relied on multispectral data, especially from the Landsat satellite family: in addition to detections across Landsat's visible and near-infrared bands (Assal, Sibold, and Reich 2014;Bryk, Kołodziej, and Pliszka 2021), its shortwave infrared (SWIR) bands enable early detection, as they are sensitive to leaf water content, the alteration of which is an early effect of a bark beetle infestation (Abdullah et al. 2018;Goodwin et al. 2008;Meigs, Kennedy, and Cohen 2011). Landsat's thermal instruments have also been used Hais and Kučera 2008). ...
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Bark beetle infestations are among the most substantial forest disturbance agents worldwide. Moreover, as a consequence of global climate change, they have increased in frequency and in the size and number of affected areas. Controlling bark beetle outbreaks requires consistent operational monitoring, as is possible using satellite data. However, while many satellite-based approaches have been developed, the full potential of dense, multi-sensor time series has yet to be fully explored. Here, for the first time, we used all available multispectral data from Landsat and Sentinel-2, Sentinel-1 SAR data, and combinations thereof to detect bark beetle infestations in the Bavarian Forest National Park. Based on a multi-year reference dataset of annual infested areas, we assessed the separability between healthy and infested forests for various vegetation indices calculated from the satellite data. We used two approaches to compute infestation probability time series from the different datasets: Bayesian conditional probabilities, based on the best-separating index from each satellite type, and random forest regression, based on all indices from each satellite type. Five different sensor configurations were tested for their detection capabilities: Landsat alone, Sentinel-1 alone, Sentinel-2 alone, Landsat and Sentinel-2 combined, and data from all satellite types combined. The best overall results in terms of spatial accuracy were achieved with Sentinel-2 (max. overall accuracy: 0.93). The detections of Sentinel-2 also were the closest to the onset of infestation estimated for each year. Sentinel-2 detected infested areas in larger contiguous patches with higher reliability compared to smaller patches. The results achieved with Landsat were somewhat inferior to those of Sentinel-2 (max. accuracy: 0.89). While yielding similar results, the combination of Landsat and Sentinel-2 did not provide any advantages over using Landsat or Sentinel-2 alone (max. accuracy: 0.87), while Sentinel-1 was unable to detect infested areas (max. accuracy: 0.62). The combined data of all three satellite types did not achieve satisfactory results either (max. accuracy: 0.67). Spatial accuracies were typically higher for Bayesian conditional probabilities than for random forest-derived probabilities, but the latter resulted in earlier detections. The approach presented herein provides a flexible disturbance detection pipeline well-suited for the monitoring of bark beetle outbreaks. Furthermore, it can also be applied to other disturbance types.
... (moderate), 0.61-0.80 (substantial), and 0.81-1 (almost perfect)(Masek et al., 2006;Dubovyk et al., 2013;Assal et al., 2014;Moradi et al., 2020). The user and producer accuracies were also calculated(Padmanaban et al., 2017b). ...
Full-text available
The exploitation of mineral resources is crucial for cost-effective construction but has also led to severe damage to the ecological environment in mining areas. Therefore, it is particularly important to effectively monitor surface environmental problems in the mining subsidence area caused by the exploitation of mineral resources. Herein, the Huinong coal mining subsidence area, Shizuishan city, Ningxia, China, was taken as the study area. The remote sensing image features of various environmental elements were investigated through field investigations, the measured spectra, and image spectrum contrast analysis. On this basis, an object-oriented random forest classification method was used to classify images from different time phases and sources in coal mining subsidence areas. Next, the man–machine interactive interpretation was confirmed by referring to the pre-classification results. By overlaying the interpretation result map and analyzing the land-use class changes, the spatial–temporal evolution monitoring of the surface environment in the coal mining subsidence area from 1979 to 2018 was carried out. The results show that the surface environment in the coal mining subsidence area has undergone significant changes over the past 40 years, among which—from 1979 to 2003—the environment of the coal mining area was severely damaged by the intensive mining activities. The area of cultivated land and vegetation coverage decreased sharply, while the area of other land-use classes, such as coal heaps, water bodies, and coal gangue, exhibited a trend of rapid growth. From 2003 to 2018, after more than 10 years of mine geological environment renovation and management, the surface environment of the coal mining subsidence area greatly improved, among which the vegetation coverage has shown the fastest growth rate, while the area of coal gangue, badlands, and other land-use classes have significantly reduced. The hidden dangers of geological disasters have been drastically mitigated. In addition, the residential area continued to decrease in the early stages and then rebounded to a certain extent, indicating that urbanization was carried out at the same time as the ecological environment began to improve. The surface environment before and after the renovation is consistent with the results from remote sensing monitoring.
... The unique value of remote sensing in mapping the location, extent, and severity of bark beetle attacks, as well as its ability to assist in analyzing the potential drivers for outbreak predictions, has been widely recognized (Dennison et al., 2010;DeRose et al., 2011;Feng et al., 2015;Hart and Veblen, 2015;Meddens et al., 2011;Meddens et al., 2013;Meng et al., 2012;Tanase et al., 2018;Vorster et al., 2017;Wulder et al., 2006). Mapping bark beetle attacks using satellite passive (i.e., optical) sensors has proven particularly successful, though the variations in canopy spectral reflectance caused by foliage changes are subtle (Ye et al., 2021) compared with those of stand-replacing disturbances such as fire and logging (Assal et al., 2014;DeRose et al., 2011;McDowell et al., 2015;Senf et al., 2017;Zhao et al., 2015;Zhao et al., 2022). Changes in pine needle moisture, pigment, and cellular structure associated with senescence and loss after an attack cause changes in the spectral response (Hart and Veblen, 2015;Meddens et al., 2011;Senf et al., 2017). ...
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The recent northward expansion of Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) outbreaks associated with warming winters has caused extensive tree mortality in temperate pine forests, significantly affecting forest dynamics, structure, and functioning. Spatially-explicit early warning and detection of SPB-induced tree mortality is critical for timely and sustainable forest management practices. The unique contributions of remote sensing technologies to mapping the location, extent, and severity of beetle outbreaks, as well as assisting in analyzing the potential drivers for outbreak predictions, have been well recognized. However, little is known about the performance of moderate resolution satellite multispectral imagery for early warning and detection of SPB-induced tree mortality. Thus, we conducted this study, as the first attempt, to capture the spatial-temporal patterns of SPB infestation severity at the regional scale and to understand the underlying environmental drivers in a spatially-explicit manner. First, we explored the spectral signatures of SPB-killed trees based on 30-m plot measurements and Landsat-8 imagery. Then, to improve detection accuracy for areas with low-moderate SPB infestation severity, we added spectral-temporal anomaly information in the form of a linear trend of the spectral index trajectory to a previously developed approach. The best overall accuracy increased from 84.7% to 90.1% and the best Macro F1 value increased from 0.832 to 0.900. Next, we compared the performances of spectral indices in mapping SPB infestation severity (i.e., % red stage within the 30-m grid cell). The results showed that the combination of Normalized Difference Moisture Index and Tasseled Cap Greenness had the best performance for mapping SPB infestation severity (2016: R2 = 0.754; RSME = 15.7; 2017: R2 = 0.787; RSME = 12.4). Finally, we found that climatic and landscape variables can explain the detected patterns of SPB infestation from 2014 to 2017 in our study area (R2 = 0.751; RSME = 9.67), providing valuable insights on possible predictors for early warning of SPB infestation. Specifically, in our study area, winter dew point temperature was found to be one of the most important predictors, followed by SPB infestation locations in the previous year, canopy cover of host species, elevation, and slope. In the context of continued global warming, our study not only provides a novel framework for efficient, spatially-explicit, and quantitative measurements of forest damage induced by SPB infestation over large scales, but also uncovers opportunities to predict future SPB outbreaks and take precautions against it.
... Long-term ecological studies are imperative to understand how ecosystems respond to environmental change from global to local scales (Hughes et al., 2017;Kerr and Ostrovsky, 2003). The remote sensing archive contributes an historical perspective with respect to ecological disturbance (Assal et al., 2014), aiding our understanding of the dynamic nature of contemporary landscapes (Swetnam et al., 1999). Furthermore, the use of satellite imagery to assess ecological response to change has become a valuable tool for ecologists to understand the effects of this change on wildlife habitat (Kerr and Ostrovsky, 2003;Pettorelli et al., 2018Pettorelli et al., , 2005. ...
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Riparian ecosystems provide critical habitat for many species, yet assessment of vegetation condition at local scales is difficult to measure when considering large areas over long time periods. We present a framework to map and monitor two deciduous cover types, upland and riparian, occupying a small fraction of an expansive, mountainous landscape in north-central Wyoming. Initially, we developed broad-scale predictions of predominant woody vegetation types by integrating Landsat data into species distribution models and combining subsequent outputs into a synthesis map. Then, we evaluated a 35-year Landsat time series (1985–2019) using the Mann-Kendall test to identify significant trends in the condition of upland and riparian deciduous vegetation and assessed the rate and direction of change using the Theil-Sen estimator. Finally, we used plot level data to assess the utility of the framework to detect bottom-up controls (ungulate browse pressure and management actions) on vegetation condition. The synthesis map had an overall correct classification rate of 87% and field data indicated deciduous vegetation within 45 m of coniferous forest faces increased pressure of conifer expansion. The trend assessment identified consistent patterns operating at the landscape scale across both upland and riparian deciduous vegetation; a predominant greening trend was observed for 12 years followed by a 9-year browning trend, before switching back to a greening trend for the last 13 years of the study. Our results indicate trends are driven by the climate of the measurement period at the landscape scale. Although we did not find conclusive evidence to establish a strong link between browse pressure and satellite data, we highlight examples where prevailing trends can be overridden by local disturbance or management intervention. This framework is transferable to other understudied riparian environments throughout western North America to provide insight on ecohydrological processes and assess global and local stressors across broad spatiotemporal scales.
... 15 fold cross validation repeated three times was used to tune the GBM models, select the one with the lowest RMSE, and estimate model performance in terms of RMSE and R 2 . While not a strictly independent estimate of model accuracy, repeated cross validation is commonly used for machine learning models, particularly when an independent dataset is not available [72,73]. Consistent with other studies, we reported on the relative importance of each predictor variable, the RMSE, and R 2 of each final model. ...
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Background: Forest disturbance induced changes in the coupling of forest carbon and water have important implications for ecosystem functioning and sustainable forest management. However, this is rarely investigated at the large watershed scale with cumulative forest disturbance. We used a combination of techniques including modeling, statistical analysis, and machine learning to investigate the effects of cumulative forest disturbance on water use efficiency (WUE, a proxy for carbon and water coupling) in the 19,200 km2 Chilcotin watershed situated in the central interior of British Columbia, Canada. Harvesting, wildfire, and a severe Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) infestation have gradually cumulated over the 45-year study period, and the watershed reached a cumulative equivalent clear-cut area of 10% in 1999 and then 40% in 2016. Results: Surprisingly, with the dramatic forest disturbance increase from 2000 to 2016 which was mainly due to MPB, watershed-level carbon stocks and sequestration showed an insignificant reduction. This resilience was mainly due to landscape-level carbon dynamics that saw a balance between a variety of disturbance rates and types, an accumulation of older stand types, and fast growing young regenerated forests. Watershed-level carbon sequestration capacity was sustained, measured by Net Primary Production (NPP). A concurrent significant decrease in annual evapotranspiration (ET), led to a 19% increase in WUE (defined as the ratio of NPP to ET), which is contrary to common findings after disturbance at the forest stand-level. During this period of high disturbance, ET was the dominant driver of the WUE increase. Conclusions: We conclude that disturbance-driven forest dynamics and the appropriate scale must be considered when investigating carbon and water relationship. In contrast to the stand-level trade-off relationship between carbon and water, forested watersheds may be managed to maintain timber, carbon and water resources across large landscapes.
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It deals with women issues on nRm and land use
In contrast to abrupt changes caused by land cover conversion, subtle changes driven by a shift in the condition, structure, or other biological attributes of land often lead to minimal and slower alterations of the terrestrial surface. Accurate mapping and monitoring of subtle change are crucial for an early warning of long-term gradual change that may eventually result in land cover conversion. Freely accessible moderate-resolution datasets such as the Landsat archive have great potential to characterize subtle change by capturing low-magnitude spectral changes in long-term observations. However, past studies have reported limited success in accurately extracting subtle changes from satellite-based time series analysis. In this study, we introduce a supervised framework named ‘PIDS’ to detect subtle forest disturbance from a comprehensive Landsat data archive by leveraging disturbance-based calibration sites. PIDS consists of four components: (1) Parameter optimization; (2) Index selection; (3) Dynamic stratified monitoring; and (4) Spatial consideration. PIDS was applied to map the early stage of bark beetle infestations (i.e., a lower per-pixel fraction of trees cover that show visual signs of infestation), which are a typical example of subtle change in conifer forests. Landsat Analysis Ready Data were used as the time series inputs for mapping mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle disturbance between 2001 and 2019 in Colorado, USA. PIDS-detection map assessment showed that the overall performance of PIDS (namely ‘F1 score’) was 0.86 for mountain pine beetle and 0.73 for spruce beetle, making a substantial improvement (> 0.3) compared to other approaches/products including COntinuous monitoring of Land Disturbance, LandTrendr, and the National Land Cover Database forest disturbance product. A sub-pixel analysis of tree canopy mortality percentage was performed by linking classified high-resolution (0.3- and 1-m) aerial imagery and 30-m PIDS-detection maps. Results show that PIDS typically detects mountain pine beetle infestation when ≥56% of a Landsat pixel is occupied by red-stage canopy mortality (one year after initial infestation), and spruce beetle infestation when ≥55% is occupied by gray-stage mortality (two years after initial infestation). This study addresses an important methodological goal pertinent to the utility of event-based reference samples for detecting subtle forest change, which could be potentially applied to other types of subtle land change.
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Multi-Resolution Land Characterization 2001 (MRLC 2001) is a second-generation Federal consortium designed to create an updated pool of nation-wide Landsat 5 and 7 imagery and derive a second-generation National Land Cover Database (NLCD 2001). The objectives of this multi-layer, multi-source database are two fold: first, to provide consistent land cover for all 50 States, and second, to provide a data framework which allows flexibility in developing and applying each independent data component to a wide variety of other applications. Components in the database include the following: (1) normalized imagery for three time periods per path/row, (2) ancillary data, including a 30 m Digital Elevation Model (DEM) derived into slope, aspect and slope position, (3) perpixel estimates of percent imperviousness and percent tree canopy, (4) 29 classes of land cover data derived from the imagery, ancillary data, and derivatives, (5) classification rules, confidence estimates, and metadata from the land cover classification. This database is now being developed using a Mapping Zone approach, with 66 Zones in the continental United States and 23 Zones in Alaska. Results from three initial mapping Zones show single-pixel land cover accuracies ranging from 73 to 77 percent, imperviousness accuracies ranging from 83 to 91 percent, tree canopy accuracies ranging from 78 to 93 percent, and an estimated 50 percent increase in mapping efficiency over previous methods. The database has now entered the production phase and is being created using extensive partnering in the Federal government with planned completion by 2006.
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Applied historical ecology is the use of historical knowledge in the management of ecosystems. Historical perspectives increase our understanding of the dynamic nature of landscapes and provide a frame of reference for assessing modern patterns and processes. Historical records, however, are often too brief or fragmentary to be useful, or they are not obtainable for the process or structure of interest. Even where long historical time series can be assembled, selection of appropriate reference conditions may be complicated by the past influence of humans and the many potential reference conditions encompassed by nonequilibrium dynamics. These complications, however, do not lessen the value of history; rather they underscore the need for multiple, comparative histories from many locations for evaluating both cultural and natural causes of variability, as well as for characterizing the overall dynamical properties of ecosystems. Historical knowledge may not simplify the task of setting management goals and making decisions, but 20th century trends, such as increasingly severe wildfires, suggest that disregarding history can be perilous. We describe examples from our research in the southwestern United States to illustrate
Invasion of grasslands by woody plants has been identified as a key indicator of changes in ecosystem structure and function in and and semi-arid rangelands throughout the world. We investigated changes in the balance between woody and herbaceous components of a semi-arid landscape in western Colorado (USA) using historical aerial photography. Aerial photographs from 1937, 1965-67, and 1994 were sampled at matched locations within overlapping photographs. We modeled change in spatial pattern and heterogeneity across the entire landscape and found a small, net decrease in woody canopy cover; however means disguised normal distributions of change that demonstrated offsetting increases and decreases. We described a region of widespread canopy decline within pinon-juniper forests between 2300 and 2600 m (7500-8500 feet) and a region of predominant increase at lower elevations, between 1800 and 2250 in (5900-7400 feet). It remains unclear whether this shift was driven by climate or by human-caused or natural disturbance. Mean conifer cover decreased within coniferous forests, which counteracted a trend of increased conifer cover in mixed forests, savanna-like woodlands, and the shrub steppe. Disturbance had a significant interaction with cover change in several communities, including forests, savanna and shrublands. Anthropogenic disturbances counteracted successional trends toward canopy closure more than wildfires. but this did not entirely explain observed canopy decline. The natural dynamics in this region also caused diverse changes rather than a simple progression towards increased forest cover. Importantly, temporal change in vegetation varied spatially across the landscape illustrating the importance of landscape level, spatially explicit analyses in characterizing temporal dynamics.
"Remote Sensing, now in its 3rd edition, seamlessly connects the art and science of remote sensing with the latest interpretative tools and techniques of computer-aided image processing. Newly expanded and updated, this edition delivers more of the applied scientific theory and practical results that helped the previous editions earn wide acclaim, becoming classroom and industry standards. New book design provides superior image presentation of full color plates and improved readability."--BOOK JACKET.
Information on the spatial variability of soil attributes, such as soil texture, is crucial for a wide range of decisions in ecosystem and agricultural research and management. Surveys designed to collect such information across large geographic regions may not capture the fine to moderate scales of variation in soil properties. As a result, soil properties may exhibit spatial dependencies at scales smaller than the scale at which sampling was performed. This lack of spatial structure in the sample data makes it difficult, if not impossible, to use optimal predictors such as ordinary kriging for modeling spatial variability in a data set. We developed a new approach for modeling soil texture fractions across large geographic regions at a fine spatial resolution. The method of three-stage least squares is used to model the large-scale variability in soil texture, while the small-scale variability is modeled using multivariate regression trees. This approach was used to model the spatial distribution of soil textural classes in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Independent variables used in the modeling process included terrain data, climatic data, and satellite imagery. Our results indicate that the sand model accounted for 62% of the variability observed in the sample plots, while the clay model accounted for 56% of the observed variability. Maps of soil attributes obtained from this study can serve as a useful surrogate (i) explaining the spatial variability in soil attributes across large geographic regions and (ii) supporting applications of precision forestry and agriculture for site-specific management across both small and large geographic regions.
Results of single data classification of MSS data for central British Columbia ranged from 25-80% accurate in detecting the red stage of Dendroctonus ponderosae infestation. Two multidate classifications were evaluated. A ratio of MSS bands 7 and 5 from each of the 2 yr produced results of 0-60% accuracy, while the composite of MSS bands 5 and 7 from each of the years produced results comparable to the single date analysis.-from Authors