Canadian Forest Service Publications

Remote sensing of forest pest damage: a review and lessons learned from a Canadian perspective. 2016. Hall, R.J.; Castilla, G.; White, J.C.; Cooke, B.J.; Skakun, R.S. The Canadian Entomologist 148(S1):S296-S356.

Year: 2016

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 36854

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.4039/tce.2016.11

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Outbreaks of insect pests periodically cause large losses of volume in Canada’s forests. Compounded with climate change, outbreaks create significant challenges for managing the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services. Current methods to monitor damage by these pests involve both field and aerial surveys. While relatively cost effective and timely, aerial survey consistency and spatial coverage may be insufficient for detailed monitoring across Canada’s vast forest-land base. Remote sensing can augment these methods and extend monitoring capabilities in time and space by incorporating knowledge of pest-host interactions and of how damage translates into a remote sensing signal for detection and mapping. This review provides a brief introduction to major forest insect pests in Canada (two bark beetles (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) and six defoliators) and the damage they cause, a synthesis of the literature involving aerial survey and remote sensing, and a discussion of how these two approaches could be integrated into future pest monitoring from a Canadian perspective. We offer some lessons learned, outline roles that remote sensing could serve in a management context, and discuss what ongoing and upcoming technological advances may offer to future forest health monitoring.

Plain Language Summary

Outbreaks of insect pests such as bark beetles and defoliators periodically cause large losses of volume in Canada’s forests. When combined with fire, such outbreaks can transform forests from a carbon sink to a source. Current methods to monitor pest damage involve field and aerial surveys, where the latter rely on the skills of forest health technicians who sketch damage severity maps from the air. While highly cost effective, there are data gaps, and aerial surveys lack sufficient accuracy and consistency to enable detailed quantification of impacts and understanding of ecosystem dynamics. Remote sensing, the acquisition and analysis of scientific data from aircraft or satellites, can complement these methods and extend monitoring beyond the managed forest. However, this approach requires an understanding of how damage translates into changes in these data, which in turn requires knowledge on pest–host interactions. In this paper we review the biology of major forest insect pests in Canada, the damage they cause, and how the damage is assessed by aerial surveys and by remote sensing. We derive some lessons learned and outline the prospects for an integrated monitoring system that takes advantage of conventional and new technologies.