Tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) has invaded riparian ecosystems throughout the Western United States, including significant portions of riparian ecosystems within U.S. National Parks and Monuments. Recently, the saltcedar leaf beetle (Diorhabda elongata) was released as a tamarisk biocontrol agent. Although initial releases have been monitored, no comprehensive program is currently in place to monitor the rapid spread of Diorhabda that has resulted from numerous subsequent releases by county and state agencies. Long term monitoring of tamarisk defoliation and its impacts on habitat and water resources is needed. This study examines the potential for using higher spatial resolution Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) data and lower spatial resolution Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data for monitoring defoliation caused by Diorhabda and subsequent changes in evapotranspiration (ET). Widespread tamarisk defoliation was observed in an eastern Utah study area during summer 2007. ASTER normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) showed only minor changes between 2005 and 2006, but a significant drop in NDVI was found within riparian areas between 2006 and 2007. The decrease in NDVI caused by defoliation was apparent despite partial refoliation within the study area. MODIS time series data revealed that absolute decline in EVI varied by site, but that the timing of EVI decline during summer 2007 was early with respect to phenological patterns from 2001 through 2006. Defoliation caused decreases in ET values estimated from both ASTER and MODIS data. MODIS estimated ET declined earlier than in previous years, although annual ET was not significantly different than ET in previous years due to high year-to-year variability. Challenges to detection and monitoring of tamarisk defoliation include spectral mixing of tamarisk and other cover types at subpixel spatial resolution, spatial coregistration of time series images, the timing of image acquisition, and changes unrelated to defoliation in non-tamarisk land cover over time. Continued development of the techniques presented in this paper may allow monitoring the spread of Diorhabda and assessment of potential water salvage resulting from biocontrol of tamarisk. ?? 2009 Elsevier Inc.
Additional publication details
Remote monitoring of tamarisk defoliation and evapotranspiration following saltcedar leaf beetle attack