Discriminating Tsuga canadensis Hemlock Forest Defoliation Using Remotely Sensed Change Detection

  • D. D. Royle
  • R. G. Lathrop
Keywords: adelges tsugae, change detection, defoliation, discriminant analysis, discriminating, eastern hemlock, forest, hemlock woolly adelgid, landsat tm, remote sensing, tsuga canadensis


The eastern hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis) is declining in health and vigor in eastern North America due to infestation by an introduced insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges isugue). Adelgid feeding activity results in the defoliation of hemlock forest canopy over several years. We investigated the application of Landsat satellite imagery and change-detection techniques to monitor the health of hemlock forest stands in northern New Jersey. We described methods used to correct effects due to atmospheric conditions and monitor the health status of hemlock stands over time. As hemlocks defoliate, changes occur in the spectral reflectance of the canopy in near infrared and red wavelengths-changes captured in the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. By relating the differences in this index over time to hemlock defoliation on the ground, four classes of hemlock forest health were predicted across spatially heterogeneous landscapes with 82% accuracy. Using a time series of images, we are investigating temporal and spatial patterns in hemlock defoliation across the study area over the past decade. Based on the success of this methodology, we are no expanding out study to monitor hemlock health across the entire Mid-Atlantic region.