Assessing southern pine beetle effects on viewsheds of South Carolina using modeling, GIS, and 3D visualization

Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science at Clemson University

SUMMARY: A study is proposed that would use previous research to: predict the probability of the occurrence of southern pine beetle (SPB) infestations, including where they may occur in South Carolina’s southeastern piedmont and lower coastal plain and how much damage they will do to the forests in the viewsheds; and identify the best management practice to prevent or minimize the losses. This knowledge will be incorporated into GIS and 3D visualization techniques to evaluate the impact on the view and aesthetic quality of forested landscapes in both the piedmont and lower coast.

EFETAC's ROLE: This project is supported by EFETAC funding.

STATUS: Completed

PROGRESS: A GIS-based model, SPBSPOT, has been developed for simulating SPB spot growth using ArcGIS software with ArcObject and Visual Basic for Application. SPBSPOT is built by five subroutines. Individual interfaces are developed for each of them to allow users the flexibility to specify stand situations and design management scenarios based on their individual needs. SPBSPOT can then be incorporated into a three-dimensional (3-D) visualization by using the visual simulator Visual Nature Studio.

3-D landscape visualization is comprised of multi-spatial, multi-temporal, and multi-expression elements. Supplemented with geographic information system (GIS) databases and remote sensing images, researchers have generated 3-D visualizations to compare the landscape patterns before (1999), during (2002), and after (2006) the occurrence of SPB infestations in Clemson Experimental Forest in Clemson, SC [View the visualizations here.] The researchers generated GIS maps of possible infestations as the basis of 3-D visualizations to simulate spatial patterns of spot growth under a variety of management scenarios (i.e., thinning, stand restoration, and stand species mixture) [View the simulation videos here.]

SPBSPOT is also used to evaluate the economic impact and ecological effect of salvage operations under different levels of SPB infestation severity. In addition, an integrated technique of GIS, historic remote sensing images, and 3-D visualization is used to construct a variety of realistic animations depicting effects following SPB infestations on different restoration scenarios (i.e., thinning, prescribed burning, the combination effect of thinning + burning, and the species mixture). The results indicate that 1) different silvicultural treatments are able to reduce the number of infected trees, but the overall impact on the affected area may not necessarily be changed, 2) thinning treatment responded best (i.e., least damage) to SPB infestation on forest restoration stands, while the thinning + burning treatment may have resulted in too much stress to increase the stand’s susceptibility, 3) salvage operation is not necessary for the light severity infestation, but it has critical effects for the higher severity ones. In conclusion, this well-organized GIS-based 3-D visualization can be used in the combination of complex information to enhance alternative management strategy evaluation.

Related publications:

Chou, C.-Y., B. Song, R. L. Hedden, T. M. Williams, J. D. Culin, and C. J. Post. (2010) Three-dimensional landscape visualizations: new technique towards wildfire and forest bark beetle management. Forests 1(2): 82-98.

Chou, C.-Y., B. Song, T. M. Williams, R. L. Hedden, J. D. Culin, and C. J. Post. (2010) Three-dimensional landscape visualizations of forest restoration scenarios for southern pine beetle infested forests. Forest Restoration Special Issue for FEC (Functional Ecosystems and Communities). Accepted.

Chou, C.-Y., B. Song, T. M. Williams, R.D.L. Torre, J. D. Culin, and R. L. Hedden. (2010) Using GIS-based Southern Pine Beetle spot growth model to evaluate the effect of direct control – salvage operation. In Proceedings of the 7th Southern Forestry and Natural Resources GIS Conference. In press.

Chou, C.-Y., R.L. Hedden, B. Song, and T.M. Williams. (2010) Using GIS-based spot growth model and visual simulator to evaluate the effects of silvicultural treatments on the Southern Pine Beetle infestation stands. In the Proceedings of the 15th Biennial Southern Silvicultural Research Conference (2008), USDS, FS, Southern Research Station, GTR. In press.

Chou, C.-Y., R.L. Hedden, B.Song, and T.M. Williams. (2008) The simulation of Southern Pine Beetle spot growth in loblolly pine stands. In Proceedings of the 6th Southern Forestry and Natural Resources GIS Conference, pp. 178-195.


Bo Song, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science, or (843) 545-5673

Updated November 2012

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