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Boucher, Peter Recording the Progression of a Forest Insect Infestation in 3D Poster
Peter Boucher1, Steven Hancock2, Arthur Elmes1, Francesco Peri1, Ian Paynter3 and Crystal Schaaf1
(1) University of Massachusetts Boston(2) University of Edinburgh(3) Universities Space Research Association (USRA)

An invasive insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA; Adelges tsugae), is altering the structure and composition of forests in the eastern United States. The HWA infestation causes a distinct signal of structural change in hemlock forests that can be monitored with lidar remote sensing. HWA feeds on the energy stores of eastern hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis), an ecological foundation species in New England, killing infested trees in a decade. During initial stages of the infestation, hemlock trees defoliate in the mid-story, but appear healthy in the upper canopy. HWA causes gaps to open in dense hemlock canopies, increasing light availability and catalyzing growth in understory plants. In order to monitor the spread and severity of HWA, remote sensing can focus on these distinct impacts: the loss of plant material in the mid-canopy and the successive response of understory plants. This research explores the use of lidar data for recording structural changes that are unique to the HWA infestation. Voxelized lidar point clouds from plots with varying degrees of HWA infestation severity are compared within an old-growth hemlock area of the Smithsonian Institute ForestGEO plot at the Harvard Forest experimental site in Massachusetts, USA. Voxelized gap fraction and plant area index (PAI) highlight changes in hemlock forest structure at different stages of infestation severity. Future work expands upon these results by relating these high-resolution measurements with spaceborne lidar data. In sum, this work explores new methods for monitoring forest disturbances with observations of forest structure, rather than spectra, and examines the potential to scale up from the plot to the landscape scale.