IES to research early detection of bark beetle attacks

The Institute for Environmental Solutions (IES) starts to research methods for remote early detection of bark beetle (Ips typhographus) attacks.

The aim of the activity is to test the capabilities of existing methods and to develop technical requirements for future Earth observation (EO) satellite. The data provided by said satellite would provide timely information on bark beetle attacks in their early stages. Such data would be highly valued by forest owners and forest managers, as well as state institutions, allowing for timely protection measures.

In order to create the concept of the satellite, repeated airborne  data (RGB, VNIR, thermal) acquisition from the pilot sites will be performed. Additionally, innovative reference data acquisition method will be tested on-site and an in-depth study on the already available satellite data capabilities will be performed. The research will be carried out in close cooperation with forestry experts – as their ability to timely detect bark beetle damage will be invaluable for the development of this conception.

Pilot area in airborne thermal data from an airborne platform. Image: IES
Pilotteritorija termalajos datos mizgrauzi
Pilot area in visible and near-infrared data from an airborne platform. Image: IES

The bark beetle is one of the most important threats to forest stands not only in Latvia, but also in other parts of Europe. The larvae of this small insect feed on the inner layer of spruce bark where organic matter is transported, and damage to this part of the plant permanently weakens the tree. The main signs of damage are holes in the bark from which bark “flour” falls out, soft bark and brownish needle tips. If bark beetle damage is observed, sanitation harvest should be carried out. Preventive measures must be taken in healthy stands: forest maintenance and prevention of wind damage. The damage caused by the bark beetle has increased particularly as a result of climate change and intensification of forestry. In 2023, an emergency situation was declared due to the massive infestation of this pest in Latvian forests.

The activity “Feasibility study on future thermal and VNIR EO satellite mission for early detection of bark beetle attack (Acronym – BBWatch)” is implemented by the Institute for Environmental Solutions as a part of the “FutureEO” programme by the European Space Agency.