Sensing technology study identifies trees affected by deadly larch disease

Posted by ap507 at Apr 06, 2017 09:55 AM |
Leicester researchers lead study into disease identification and monitoring

Researchers from our University have used remote sensing technology by Leicestershire-based aerial mapping company Bluesky in order to identify trees affected by a destructive disease.

Maps collected by airborne laser sensors have, for the first time, been used to successfully pinpoint individual trees affected by the deadly larch tree disease.

The laser scanning surveys (LiDAR) were undertaken by aerial mapping company Bluesky and used to model tree canopy height as part of a wider study to prove the effective use of the technology for disease identification and monitoring.

Phytophthora ramorum is a fungus-like pathogen which causes extensive damage and mortality to a wide range of trees and other plants. Generically referred to as ramorum, the disease was first discovered in the UK back in 2002 and has now spread to sites from Cornwall to Scotland, causing destruction in high profile areas including Epping Forest and the Forest of Dean.

Chloe Barnes, Postgraduate Researcher at the Department of Geography and lead author of the study, said: “Current trends suggest that UK forests and woodlands are subject to a greater threat from exotic diseases, such as larch tree disease, than ever before.

“While the use of LiDAR in forestry applications has become more common, its use to identify individual trees affected by diseases has, until now, been underutilised.

“The three dimensional nature of LiDAR provides structural information on topography, canopy height, tree density and crown dimensions, which we have proved can be used to determine biophysical parameters and inform forest inventories."

Professor Heiko Balzter, from the Department of Geography, added: “University research in close collaboration with companies like Bluesky provides huge opportunities for turning research outcomes into real-world applications.”

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