Here, There, and Everywhere: Assessing SPB Outbreaks in Alabama

Category: Monitoring Environmental Health and Disturbances
Project Team: Alabama Ecological Forecasting
Team Location: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center at NSSTC – Huntsville, Alabama

The Future SPB Outbreak Susceptibility Map shows the probability of a Southern Pine Beetle outbreak occurring in 2050. Image Credit: Alabama Ecological Forecasting Team

The Future SPB Outbreak Susceptibility Map shows the probability of a Southern Pine Beetle outbreak occurring in 2050. Image Credit: Alabama Ecological Forecasting Team

Authors:
Ryan Schick
Kelsey Herndon
Maggi Klug
Leigh Sinclair

Mentors/Advisors:
Dr. Jeffrey Luvall (NASA at the National Space Science Technology Center)
Dr. Robert Griffin (University of Alabama in Huntsville)

Past/Other Contributors:
Leigh Sinclair (Center Lead)

Abstract:

The Southern Pine Beetle (SPB), Dendroctonus frontalis, is an opportunistic species that attacks stressed trees weakened by drought, storm damage, or fire. In 2000, about 18,600 acres of pine forest were damaged throughout the Bankhead National Forest due to SPB. The U.S. Forest Service currently uses expensive manned aerial surveys to help with mitigation efforts, such as aerial photography and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) ForWarn and Forest Disturbance Monitor data. This project used remotely sensed data to identify SPB infested areas throughout Alabama and determine outbreak patterns. Aqua/Terra MODIS were used to derive a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and a Green-Red Vegetation Index (GRVI) to show vegetation health and a Normalized Moisture Difference Index (NMDI) to show the surrounding drought conditions. Shuttle Radar Topography Mission Version 2 (SRTM-v2) Digital Elevation Models (DEM) were used to understand how elevation, slope, and aspect affect SPB susceptibility. Present SPB data and various environmental variables were analyzed using the Princeton University Maximum Entropy model (MaxEnt) to assess areas susceptible to a SPB outbreak by creating a SPB Prediction Map for 2050. Additionally, this project determined where mitigation efforts should be focused by creating a Near Real-Time SPB Susceptibility Model. A Historical SPB Coverage Map was created to understand patterns of previous attacks. The Forest Service used these methodologies and maps to reduce costs and time associated with SPB suppression in Bankhead National Forest and Alabama.

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