USDA Forest Service and NASA team up to monitor forests from space
About 750 million acres of forests stretch across the United States—lands that are vulnerable to disturbances caused by insects, diseases, wildfires, extreme weather, or other natural or human-caused events. Some disturbances are immediately evident in the landscape when they occur; others are more easily overlooked because they are slow-acting or are the result of multiple or interacting events.
Natural resource managers face the challenging task of watching over these vast and often remote lands and deciding when, how, and if to respond when changing conditions appear to threaten forest health. Now, they have a helping hand with a web-based forest monitoring and assessment tool called ForWarn.
ForWarn was developed by the USDA Forest Services Eastern Forest and Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Centers, NASA Stennis Space Center, and other federal and university partners. NASAs satellite imagery is the backbone of ForWarn, which provides maps of forest change throughout the lower 48 states every eight days that users can explore and share. Maps archived since 2010 provide deeper insight into disturbance and forest recovery.
“This tool literally puts space-age technology into the hands of forest resource professionals,” says Danny C. Lee, director of the Eastern Threat Center, “helping them to better identify and react to environmental disturbances.”
Federal and state natural resource managers throughout the country are currently using ForWarn, which complements efforts of other more specialized forest monitoring programs. The tool is intended to generate time and cost savings, and, ultimately, a new network of users working together to sustain the health of the nations forest resources.