Remote sensing of forest insect disturbances: Current state and future directions


Insect disturbance are important agents of change in forest ecosystems around the globe, yet their spatial and temporal distribution and dynamics are not well understood. Remote sensing has gained much attention in mapping and understanding insect outbreak dynamics. Consequently, we here review the current literature on the remote sensing of insect disturbances. We suggest to group studies into three insect types: bark beetles, broadleaved defoliators, and coniferous defoliators. By so doing, we systematically compare the sensors and methods used for mapping insect disturbances within and across insect types. Results suggest that there are substantial differences between methods used for mapping bark beetles and defoliators, and between methods used for mapping broadleaved and coniferous defoliators. Following from this, we highlight approaches that are particularly suited for each insect type. Finally, we conclude by highlighting future research directions for remote sensing of insect disturbances. In particular, we suggest to: 1) Separate insect disturbances from other agents; 2) Extend the spatial and temporal domain of analysis; 3) Make use of dense time series; 4) Operationalize near-real time monitoring of insect disturbances; 5) Identify insect disturbances in the context of coupled human-natural systems; and 6) Improve reference data for assessing insect disturbances. Since the remote sensing of insect disturbances has gained much interest beyond the remote sensing community recently, the future developments identified here will help integrating remote sensing products into operational forest management. Furthermore, an improved spatiotemporal quantification of insect disturbances will support an inclusion of these processes into regional to global ecosystem models.

Int J Appl Earth Obs Geoinf
Patrick Hostert
Patrick Hostert
Principal Investigator