Forests2015, 6(3), 594-612; doi:10.3390/f6030594 - published 2 March 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The detection of pest infestation is an important aspect of forest management. In the case of the oak splendour beetle (Agrilus biguttatus) infestation, the affected oaks (Quercus sp.) show high levels of defoliation and altered canopy reflection signature. These critical features can be identified in high-resolution colour infrared (CIR) images of the tree crown and branches level captured by Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). In this study, we used a small UAS equipped with a compact digital camera which has been calibrated and modified to record not only the visual but also the near infrared reflection (NIR) of possibly infested oaks. The flight campaigns were realized in August 2013, covering two study sites which are located in a rural area in western Germany. Both locations represent small-scale, privately managed commercial forests in which oaks are economically valuable species. Our workflow includes the CIR/NIR image acquisition, mosaicking, georeferencing and pixel-based image enhancement followed by object-based image classification techniques. A modified Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVImod) derived classification was used to distinguish between five vegetation health classes, i.e., infested, healthy or dead branches, other vegetation and canopy gaps. We achieved an overall Kappa Index of Agreement (KIA) of 0.81 and 0.77 for each study site, respectively. This approach offers a low-cost alternative to private forest owners who pursue a sustainable management strategy.
Forests2015, 6(3), 581-593; doi:10.3390/f6030581 - published 27 February 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur L.) forests in Slovenia are experiencing widespread mortality. Changes in lowlands are reflected in decline of complete forest complexes, high mortality, uneven stand structure and associated forest regeneration problems. Prediction of the present-tree response in disturbed forest ecosystems may significantly contribute to better guideline policies for the silvicultural and forest management practice in the changing environment in both stressed and stabile forest ecosystems. Data from annual crown condition surveys for the 1995–2014 period from four permanent plots have been compared with parameters from hemispherical photo analysis and hydrometeorological data. Good agreement has been confirmed between crown defoliation and total openness; all parameters from the hemispherical photo analysis, which were corrected for winter period values, also indicated a better agreement. Mortality rate and crown defoliation correlated well with extreme drought events in 2003 and 2013. Pattern of agreement among compared parameters was different for the plots Krakovski gozd, Dobrava and some other plots. Mortality is influenced by the average air temperatures much more than by precipitation and groundwater table oscillations.
Forests2015, 6(3), 561-580; doi:10.3390/f6030561 - published 25 February 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The southern region of the U.S. uses prescribed fire as a management tool on more of its burnable land than anywhere in the U.S., with ecosystem restoration, wildlife habitat enhancement, and reduction of hazardous fuel loads as typical goals. Although the region performs more than 50,000 prescribed fire treatments each year, evaluation of their effects on wildfire suppression resources or behavior/effects is limited. To better understand trends in the use and effectiveness of prescribed fire, we conducted a region-wide survey of 523 fire use practitioners, working on both public and private lands. A 1–2 year prescribed fire interval was consistently viewed as effective in decreasing wildfire ignitions, behavior, and severity, as well as reducing suppression resources needed where wildfire occurred. Yet fewer than 15% of practitioners viewed burn intervals of 3–4 years as effective in reducing ignitions, underscoring the importance of high-frequency burning in vegetation communities where fuel recovery is rapid. Public lands managers identified limited budget and staffing as major institutional impediments to prescribed fire, in contrast to private individuals, more of whom chose liability as a key challenge. Differences in responses across ownership type, state, and vegetation type call for a broader perspective on how fire managers in the southern U.S. view prescribed fire.
Forests2015, 6(3), 533-560; doi:10.3390/f6030533 - published 18 February 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Integrated forest management is faced with the challenge that the contribution of forests to economic and ecological planning targets must be assessed in a socio-ecological system context. This paper introduces a way to model spatio-temporal dynamics of biomass production at a regional scale in order to derive land use strategies that enhance biomass provision and avoid trade-offs for other ecosystem services. The software platform GISCAME was employed to bridge the gap between local land management decisions and regional planning by linking growth and yield models with an integrative mesoscale modeling and assessment approach. The model region is located in Saxony, Germany. Five scenarios were simulated, which aimed at testing different alternatives for adapted land use in the context of climate change and increasing biomass demand. The results showed, for example, that forest conversion towards climate-change-adapted forest types had positive effects on ecological integrity and landscape aesthetics. In contrast, negative impacts on landscape aesthetics must be expected if agricultural sites were converted into short rotation coppices. Uncertainties with stem from assumptions regarding growth and yield models were discussed. Future developmental steps which consider, for example, accessibility of the resources were identified.
Forests2015, 6(2), 510-532; doi:10.3390/f6020510 - published 17 February 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: We evaluated the effectiveness of commercial thinning mainly from below (CT; 0, 26%, 32% and 40% merchantable basal area removals) in meeting wood production demands and developing structural heterogeneity in a balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill) and spruce (Picea spp.) stand. After 10 years, 32%–40% removals showed a 12%–18% increase in mean diameter and 27%–38% increase in gross merchantable volume (GMV) per tree compared to the unthinned control. At the stand level, all thinning treatments generated as much cumulative GMV (harvested volume + GMV after 10 years) and gross sawlog volume per hectare as the unthinned control. As for stand structure, eight out of nine thinned experimental units showed increased structural heterogeneity after 10 years, i.e., irregular, positively-skewed diameter distribution with an elongated right tail toward larger trees. The diameter distribution in the unthinned control became more symmetric, unimodal and regular over time, with fewer saplings than at the beginning of the experiment and lower density of larger trees compared to CT. Regeneration density and stocking were abundant in all treatments, largely dominated by balsam fir. Results indicate that thinning can be used to meet wood production objectives and help develop structural heterogeneity in this forest.
Forests2015, 6(2), 492-509; doi:10.3390/f6020492 - published 16 February 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The main aim was to develop models for predicting diameter at breast height (DBH), merchantable tree volume (V), and aboveground biomass (AGB) of individual black pine (Pinus nigra Arn.) trees grown in Sub-Mediterranean Croatian pure even-aged forests, which will be suitable for remote sensing based forest inventories. In total, eight variables obtained from field measurement, existing database, and digital terrain model were candidates for independent variables in regression analysis. DBH, V, and AGB were modeled as linear function of each of the independent variables, and all possible linear combinations thereof. Goodness of fit of every model was then evaluated using R2 statistic. Comparison between selected models showed that the variability of all dependent variables are explained best by models which include both crown diameter and tree height as independent variables with coefficients of determination of 0.83, 0.89, 0.82 for DBH, V, and AGB, respectively. Consequently, these models may be recommended as the most suited for DBH, V and AGB estimation of black pine trees grown in pure Sub-Mediterranean forest stands using high-resolution aerial images or high-density airborne laser scanning data. This assumption should be further validated by conducting remote sensing inventory and comparing the obtained results with field measurement results.