Abstract: Research into remote sensing tools for monitoring physiological stress caused by biotic and abiotic factors is critical for maintaining healthy and highly-productive plantation forests. Significant research has focussed on assessing forest health using remotely sensed data from satellites and manned aircraft. Unmanned aerial vehicles(UAVs) may provide new tools for improved forest health monitoring by providing data with very high temporal and spatial resolutions. These platforms also pose unique challenges and methods for health assessments must be validated before use. In this research, we simulated a disease outbreak in mature Pinus radiata D. Don trees using targeted application of herbicide. The objective was to acquire a time-series simulated disease expression dataset to develop methods for monitoring physiological stress from a UAV platform. Time-series multi-spectral imagery was acquired using a UAV flown over a trial at regular intervals. Traditional field-based health assessments of crown health (density) and needle health (discolouration) were carried out simultaneously by experienced forest health experts. Our results showed that multi-spectral imagery collected from a UAV is useful for identifying physiological stress in mature plantation trees even during the early stages of tree stress. We found that physiological stress could be detected earliest in data from the red edge and near infra-red bands. In contrast to previous findings, red edge data did not offer earlier detection of physiological stress than the near infra-red data. A non-parametric approach was used to model physiological stress based on spectral indices and was found to provide good classification accuracy (weighted kappa = 0.694). This model can be used to map physiological stress based on high-resolution multi-spectral data.
Authors: Jonathan P. Dash, Michael S. Watt, Grant D. Pearse, Marie Heaphy, Heidi S.Dungey
Associations: Scion, New Zealand