Beetle Spruce: Mapping Spruce Mortality in Colorado Forests

Category: Monitoring Environmental Health and Disturbances
Project Team: Gunnison National Forest Agriculture
Team Location: USGS at Colorado State University – Fort Collins, Colorado

Spruce mortality distribution and severity. Image Credit: Gunnison National Forest Agriculture Team

Spruce mortality distribution and severity. Image Credit: Gunnison National Forest Agriculture Team

Authors:
Eric Rounds
Sarah Carroll
Oliver Miltenberger
Peder Engelstad

Mentors/Advisors:
Dr. Paul Evangelista (Natural Resources Ecology Lab, Colorado State University)
Tony Vorster (Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies)

Past/Other Contributors:
Brian Woodward (Center Lead)

Abstract:
Over the last 15 years, Colorado forests have experienced epidemic bark beetle outbreaks with increasing severity. These outbreaks affect forest health, wildlife habitat, wildfire regimes, and the safety of recreational forest users. The impacts of epidemic outbreaks are of great concern to land managers and project partners at the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) who are working to maintain ecological integrity and safe public access in national forest lands. Since the decline of the Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae), the spruce beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) epidemic has become the longest ongoing outbreak in the state. This project utilized Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Thermal Infrared Scanner (TIRS), Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM), National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) imagery, and forest health indices to produce spruce mortality data. These combined datasets were utilized in an integrative spatial model to produce fine-scale maps of spruce mortality across the Rocky Mountains of Colorado for the years 2013 and 2015. This novel methodology and the resulting maps will augment the limited spruce beetle spatial data currently available for Colorado forests and potentially provide an improvement upon existing maps used by project partners.

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