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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2017

  • Title: Using Remote Sensing to Monitor the Restructuring of a Forest by an Invasive Insect
  • Primary Author: Peter Boucher (University of Massachusetts - Boston)
  • Additional Authors: David Orwig (Harvard Forest); Crystal Schaaf (Boston University)
  • Abstract:

    The northward spread of an invasive pest, the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA; Adelges tsugae) threatens to restructure hemlock-dominated forests across eastern North America. HWA can kill eastern hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis) within a decade from the start of an infestation. Researchers found HWA on hemlock trees in the ForestGEO Megaplot at Harvard Forest in 2008, and by 2012 HWA was found throughout the plot. During summer 2016, a field mortality survey in 4 ha of forest around the hemlock eddy flux tower suggested that areas of Harvard Forest are already experiencing a rapid loss of hemlocks as a result of the invasive insect.

    Through a collaboration between UMass Boston remote sensing researchers and Harvard Forest, terrestrial and airborne light detection and ranging (lidar) data is being used to monitor the impacts of the HWA infestation within the Megaplot. Hemlock mortality data from Summer 2016 provides a ground-truth to check against the forest structural changes detected by 3D lidar scans. By monitoring multiple plots with varying degrees of hemlock mortality, we aim to substitute space for time and better understand the impacts of HWA on the Harvard Forest ecosystem. We will continue to monitor the forest with remote sensing to be able to characterize the inevitable replacement of evergreen hemlock trees with deciduous tree species.

  • Research Category: Conservation and Management; Group Projects; Large Experiments and Permanent Plot Studies; Regional Studies