UC scientists with the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP) are investigating the uses of Lidar (light detection and ranging) in providing detailed information on how forest habitat is affected by fuels management treatments across a large landscape. Mapping forest structure can illustrate how a forest influences surface hydrology, provides for wildlife and how a forest might burn given certain weather and wind patterns. This research is proving useful in wildlife studies, water quantity and fire modeling and forest planning.
Airborne lidar works by emitting a light pulse from an emitter onboard a plane towards a ground target. A portion of the light is reflected back to the airborne sensor and recorded. The time between sending out the light pulse and receiving it back is converted into distance.
This data, along with GPS information on the aircraft’s exact position and orientation, allows scientists to calculate the height of a target and create 3D maps of the forest vegetation and the bare ground. Raw lidar data is first received as a ‘point cloud’ which consists of millions of points from which meaningful and detailed measurements can be extracted.
Some of the current SNAMP research focuses on developing new methods to detect and delineate individual trees from the point cloud even in complex mixed conifer forests and rugged terrain. The SNAMP spatial team recently published a method that maps all the trees in the forest with 90 percent accuracy. The individual tree identification method identifies trees from the tallest to the shortest and is especially useful in mapping wildlife habitat. For example, the SNAMP spatial and California spotted owl teams collaborated using lidar to map large trees and canopy cover in spotted owl territories. These areas are often hard to identify and map over large areas. Lidar data was used to measure the number, density and pattern of large trees in areas used by the spotted owl. These kinds of data can be used to understand the forest habitat of other bird species and in Pacific fisher research. Below is a short video on the exploration of a lidar point cloud down to an individual tree:
Our goal is to provide methods to map the forest in detail, and thus to help forest managers anticipate the impacts of management decisions.
Images by SNAMP Spatial team/Kelly Labs, UC Berkeley
Research by UC Cooperative Extension staff in Humboldt County shows that infection and oak mortality are only the beginning of the story, as the disease may increase forest fuels and put infested stands at higher risk of severe wildfire.
UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor Yana Valachovic, with assistance from Humboldt State University’s Forestry Department and CAL FIRE, found that in Douglas-fir-tanoak forests where high hardwood mortality is related to SOD, fuels can build up to hazardous levels on the forest floor over time. Their research documented fuels buildups in infected areas that could increase a wildfire’s flame length by 3 to 4 feet and double a wildfire’s rate of spread, depending on how much time has elapsed since initial infection.
Likewise, the increased fuels on the forest floor can take a long time to break down, posing a long-term fire hazard and additional risks to firefighters.
“The disease creates a hazardous fuels situation that is passed on to firefighters during wildfire," says Valachovic. "They must combat blazing downed trees, patches of increased winds and fire behavior, and other physical and logistical obstacles.”
Hugh Scanlon, chief of CAL FIRE's Alder Conservation Camp, helped co-author the recent paper with Valachovic and others.
"In many cases, modeled wildfire conditions in sudden oak death affected forests exceed safety thresholds for handcrews, calling for changing suppression tactics and strategies," Scanlon says. "This can mean more heavy equipment, aircraft use, indirect lines and more area burned with higher intensity.”
Sudden oak death is still a relatively new disease in California, and the long-term ecological consequences of SOD infection and spread are largely unknown. However, this research shows that fuels are one of the major issues associated with the disease, and will require increased attention and management in coming years. For more information about this study, see the full paper, which was published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112711001228.
To see a map showing the locations of sudden oak death in California, go to http://www.oakmapper.org/. At the website, you can also download the Oakmapper iPhone app to help UC scientists monitor the disease by reporting suspected cases of sudden oak death.
In a comprehensive study published in the January-March 2012 issue of the University of California’s California Agriculture journal, researchers evaluated the myriad factors that contribute to crop damage from Fusarium wilt, and conclude that an integrated management approach is most effective.
“Management of Fusarium wilt requires an integrated approach that includes crop rotation to reduce soil inoculum levels and the use of resistant cultivars during the warmest planting windows,” wrote UC Davis plant pathology professor Thomas Gordon and co-authors.
Lettuce is the fifth most valuable agricultural commodity in California, with a farm-gate value of over $1.7 billion in 2009.
Fusarium wilt affects all major lettuce production areas in California and Arizona. Caused by a soilborne fungus, it was discovered in California in 1990, when plants with symptoms that ranged from mild stunting to complete collapse were observed in fields near Huron, in the San Joaquin Valley. Diseased plants have severely rotted taproots.
Crop rotation. While soil fumigation can eradicate the Fusarium fungus, the authors note that reintroduction remains a significant risk and routine preplant fumigation is generally not an option for lettuce because of costs and regulatory restrictions. “Consequently, growers must rely on the attrition of inoculum that occurs naturally when nonsusceptible crops are grown instead of lettuce.”
To estimate the longevity of pathogen propagules, the researchers transported soil from a naturally infested commercial lettuce field in Arizona to establish microplots at the University of Arizona's Yuma Agricultural Center. After 6 and 12 months, the density of the Fusarium fungus had declined by 71 percent and 86 percent, respectively. After 34 months, the fungus was detectable at 0.5 percent of the starting population.
“These results imply that keeping a field free of a susceptible crop for a year should dramatically reduce the density of pathogen inoculum — provided there is no significant reproduction on weeds or a rotation crop — but that the pathogen will likely persist at a low level for at least several years,” Gordon and co-authors wrote in California Agriculture journal.
Field susceptibility. To assess the progression of Fusarium wilt under field conditions, the researchers established an infested plot on the Department of Plant Pathology’s research farm at UC Davis.
The field trials revealed significant differences between cultivars in susceptibility to Fusarium wilt. At three weeks after planting, two leaf lettuce cultivars (Lolla Rossa and Red Rossa) and three romaine cultivars (Caesar, Green Forest and King Henry) had low disease-severity ratings and appeared resistant. Two crisphead lettuce cultivars (Beacon and Early Queen) were highly susceptible, and three other crisphead cultivars (Grand Max, Kahuna and Salinas) were intermediate between these extremes.
By six weeks after planting, differences among the crisphead lettuce cultivars had largely disappeared. Although Salinas and Grand Max were more resistant to Fusarium wilt than other crisphead lettuce cultivars, their level of resistance appeared insufficient to prevent severe damage. On the other hand, leaf and romaine cultivars retained low severity ratings until the end of the season.
Air temperature. Air temperatures also played an important role in disease development. In the field trials at UC Davis, Fusarium wilt developed more rapidly in the first (June) trial than in the second (July) and third (August) trials. Air temperatures were highest during the June planting, with a mean daily high/low of 99°F/59°F. They were progressively lower during trials in July, 95°F/55°F, and August, 90°F/52°F. Additional temperature tests in controlled environment chamber confirmed a significant effect of temperature on the development of Fusarium wilt, with disease being most severe at the highest temperatures.
Genetic research. The research team has identified additional resistant romaine and red leaf cultivars and begun developing populations to determine the genetic basis of their resistance. Likewise, breeding is under way to transfer the resistance genes from highly resistant crisphead cultivars to less resistant types.
“The process is time consuming, so it will be several years before highly resistant crisphead cultivars are available,” the authors note. “In the future, highly resistant cultivars of multiple types will be available for vulnerable production areas and warm periods of the season.”
In soils infested with the Fusarium fungus, 'Caesar' lettuce was highly disease resistant.
UC Davis geophysicist Gary Acton is one of 34 international scientists that set sail from the Azores Islands on Nov. 17 aboard the drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution. They finished their Mediterranean voyage on Jan. 17, docking in Lisbon, Portugal.
“The climate change recovered at one of the drill sites will be dedicated to providing the most complete marine record of climate change over the past 2 million years of Earth’s history,” said Acton.
The vessel is run by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and has the unique ability to core into the deepest reaches of the ocean. The IODP Expedition 339 targeted thick sediment drifts that accumulated from warm, salty water—called Mediterranean Outflow Water—flowing from the Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar. The researchers drilled, sampled and analyzed the sediment to understand the influence that the MOW water mass has on climate, sea level change and the environment.
“A fascinating aspect of these sediments is their ability to record subtle changes in environmental conditions through measurable changes,” said Acton.
Made heavy by its high salt content, the MOW’s warm waters plunge over 3,000 feet—a drop greater than that of Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall—into the Atlantic Ocean. It scours the rocky seafloor, coursing along the margins of Spain and Portugal. Passing Scotland and heading toward Norway, the MOW becomes part of the global conveyor belt that overturns the oceans and circulates water and heat around the globe. Along its journey, sand, silt, clay and microorganisms are deposited along the continental margin as thousands of layers of mud, eventually building into sediment drifts. Each layer contains information about Earth’s history.
“My goal is to reconstruct centennial-scale changes in climate and in Earth’s magnetic field for a time period spanning the past 400,000 years,” said Acton. “Only thick, rapidly deposited sedimentary units like those we are coring provide that ability. They are virtual prehistoric observatories.”
During the expedition, the scientists sailed more than 1,200 nautical miles, drilled 19 holes in 7 different locations, and collected 681 sediment cores—equal to about three miles of mud and sand. Now that the researchers have returned to their homes, they will continue to collaborate as they sift through the data.
“Part of the true value of participating on an expedition like this is the incredible amount of science that can be completed, particularly when scientists with a variety of expertise are confined to a 471-foot-long ship and asked to work 12-hour shifts for two months,” said Acton. “That may seem an odd thing to do over the holidays, but we were all thrilled to be a part of this expedition and to have the chance to continue to work together following the cruise.”
The closer homes are to open spaces – parks, stream and river corridors, forests and other natural lands – the higher the value of the homes in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. However, if homes are far from such open land, homebuyers tend to place an especially high value on lot size.
These were some of the findings of research, which graduate student Monobina Mukherjee at UC Riverside conducted in collaboration with Linda Fernandez, a former associate professor in the UC Riverside Department of Environmental Sciences. A summary of this research is in the September-October 2011 issue of UPDATE, a newsletter published by the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics.
Open space provides a broad range of benefits to communities – such as rural vistas, wildlife habitat and relief from urban congestion – which go beyond the benefits of the land to its owners. In conducting this research, Mukherjee and Fernandez sought to analyze how a policy of land conservation and wildlife habitat preservation influences the housing market.
Mukherjee and Fernandez's study was focused on San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Riverside implemented the Riverside County Integrated Project in 1999 to support conservation of open space and wildlife habitat. San Bernardino County has abundant open space, including wildland in national and state forests. The researchers designated study zones and used statistical analysis to determine the impact of open space and other variables on residential sale value.
“Larger yards sometimes seem to act as a substitute for public open space,” Mukherjee said. "I can see why this happens because these two counties experienced less dense, bigger parcel sales for period of time we have been analyzing."
In Riverside County, a 10 percent increase in the distance from the nearest park is associated with a small but statistically significant decrease in the sale price of the property, the study found. The same was true in San Bernardino County with respect to both wildland and city parks. The results showed that scarcity of open space in areas with big cities could lead homeowners to place even higher value on proximity to open space.
Mukherjee and Fernandez found the amenity values generated in this study could help public policymakers estimate the monetary benefits of open space and habitat conservation. The results can also be used for land-use planning and conservation decisions in Riverside and San Bernardino counties plus other regions with similar geographical characteristics and residential markets.
Open space in San Bernardino County, including Big Bear Lake and Lucerne Dry Lake. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)