Sierra Tree Mortality Aerial Surveys Coming in Early Summer | High Sierra Topix  

Sierra Tree Mortality Aerial Surveys Coming in Early Summer

A place to explore the natural setting (geology, flora & fauna), people, constructed infrastructure and historical events that play and have played a part in shaping the Sierra Nevada as we know it today.

Sierra Tree Mortality Aerial Surveys Coming in Early Summer

Postby ERIC » Fri Apr 15, 2016 6:17 am

US Forest Service to begin annual aerial surveys in early summer

Tree mortality expected to climb from 2015
Published on Apr 14, 2016 - 7:50:24 AM ... evada+News)#.VxD29PkrJQI
By: U.S. Forest Service - Pacific Southwest Region (R5)

VALLEJO, California, April 13, 2016 - With tree mortality rising to an estimated record-high 27.6 million trees in California in 2015, the U.S. Forest Service aerial survey team's role in generating data for the agency and state and local partners is more critical than ever.

The U.S. Forest Service began doing aerial survey detection in the Pacific Northwest Region in the 1950s, with a small program in the Pacific Southwest Region (California) established in the 1990s. A dedicated team was assigned to the regional office in the early 2000s when Sudden Oak Death became more prevalent. In addition to detecting the Sudden Oak Death and conifer mortality, aerial survey flights first detected the Gold Spotted Oak Borer infestation in 2004.

Last year, the team headed up by Aerial Survey Program Manager Jeffrey Moore discovered approximately 10 times more dead trees than previously recorded. The subsequent estimated high was 3.3 million in 2014.

Despite a limited budget and a short time frame, the team employs a Cessna 205 aircraft flying at 120 miles per hour using a three-mile grid pattern to approach a fairly thorough albeit rapid coverage of the landscape. Inside the cockpit, surveyors make freehand sketches on GPS referenced computer touch tablets with the size of a football field giving the surveyors a base for an acre of land. A top-down oblique viewing angle allows surveyors to differentiate between species of trees. Color and texture also play a major role in, for example, determining a coulter pine from a sugar pine. With over 150 flights per year from June through September, Moore and an additional surveyor piece together what they see on the landscape.

Weather and smoke can cause safety and visibility concerns, so it is critical that surveys are conducted when the conditions are ideal. "We need direct sun off of the tree canopy," said Moore. "We're looking at which trees have changed color from green to red or yellow."

Once back in the office, the data is analyzed and succinctly summarized using Geographic Information System software and cartographic satellite imagery for the background.

The aerial survey information is also used for forest planning to include prioritizing timber harvesting. Additionally, this regional data is incorporated into a national database along with other regions/programs across the country.

"I like to think of it as doing an annual checkup of forests for the whole state," said Moore. "Getting that pulse, reading the vital signs and assessing the severity of ailments and the general health overall. It is also good for historical purposes to see the trends over time. There are a lot of theories out there and this helps to check that and potentially reinforce, fine tune or cause us to rethink commonly held concepts."

An early special stand-alone survey for the most impacted areas was planned for early April, but weather caused a cancellation. The first flight of the regular surveys is expected to be made in early June with the last one wrapping up in early September.
New members, please consider giving us an intro!
Follow us on Twitter @HighSierraTopix. Use hashtags #SIERRAPHILE #GotSierra? #GotMountains?
Follow us on Facebook:

User avatar
HS Topix Owner & Forums Administrator
HS Topix Owner & Forums Administrator
Posts: 3114
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2005 8:13 am
Location: between the 916 and 661
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Sierra Tree Mortality Aerial Surveys Coming in Early Sum

Postby gary c. » Sun Apr 17, 2016 12:30 pm

An awful lot of trees dying the last few years and I don't the little rain we had this year was enough to help much. Maybe a little extra water will be enough to slow the beetles down in some areas.
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
-- Lionel Terray
User avatar
gary c.
Topix Fanatic
Posts: 1106
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2006 3:56 pm
Location: Lancaster, CA
Experience: N/A

Re: Sierra Tree Mortality Aerial Surveys Coming in Early Sum

Postby rlown » Sun Apr 17, 2016 4:03 pm

kind of surprised they can't just use google earth. I know I can see trees both in stress and healthy over my property using GE.
User avatar
Topix Junkie
Posts: 6553
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 4:00 pm
Location: Petaluma, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Return to Sierra Nevada History / Natural History & Setting

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest