Consequences of forest connectivity from beech bark disease in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Science Center Objects

In this study, we are working with Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (PIRO, or Park) in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Figure 1) to produce multiple geospatial layers of Park forest connectivity to reveal the effects of beech bark disease (BBD). There has been a 92% mortality rate of American beech (Fagus grandifolia) since BBD was first discovered in the Park in 2001. Park biologists are interested to learn how recent forest canopy loss caused by BBD is affecting wildlife species. To better understand how the forest canopy has changed since BBD infestation, geospatial layers will be developed from imagery collected in September 2005, and a collection of imagery from 2016, 2018, and 2019 to represent present day. By creating shapefiles identifying forest canopy connectivity for these years, the Park can have a better understanding of the condition of the canopy shortly after infestation and in present day. We will also conduct a forest canopy change analysis to locate areas of canopy loss or growth to assist biologists with management decisions and future research and restoration.

An R script will be developed to take digital surface (DSM) and digital terrain (DTM) models to create a canopy height model for each time period. There is a DTM available from the USGS 3DEP program, but there was not a DSM available for 2005. There is a lidar dataset available from 2017, but since there is no lidar available for 2005, we will be creating DSM’s from satellite (representing present day) and aerial imagery (2005) that through the NASA’s Ames Stereo Pipeline (Beyer and others. 2018), will create a DSM for each time period. Once the canopy height model is created, the script will identify areas that are forest canopy gaps and create a shapefile of forest canopy connectivity.

Potential uses for these geospatial products are:

  • Looking at fragmentation or “holes” in the forest canopy due to BBD to evaluate the impacts on forest-interior nesting birds.
  • Visualizing areas with total forest canopy loss to direct field work measuring soil temperature and moisture to determine changes and impacts to amphibians and vernal pools.
  • Mapping forest gap density across the Park to guide targeted searches for remnant and resistant beech and to guide efforts to find and limit potential outbreaks of other invasive species.
Digital terrain model, or bare earth model, of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore park along with the boundary of the p

Figure 1: Digital terrain model, or bare earth model, of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore park along with the boundary of the park.

(Public domain.)


Beyer, Ross A., Oleg Alexandrov, and Scott McMichael. 2018. The Ames Stereo Pipeline: NASA's open source software for deriving and processing terrain data. Earth and Space Science, 5.

U.S. Geological Survey. “3DEP Elevation Program.” USGS.
(accessed September 5, 2019).