Remote Sensing Aspen Leaf Miner Infestations Near Ester Dome in Fairbanks, Alaska

Doug Smart

M. S. Thesis
November 2008
University of Alaska Fairbanks


Mapping trembling aspen(Populous tremuloides Michx.) versus Alaskan birch (Betula neoalaskana stands in interior Alaska is possible as a byproduct of remote sensing aspen leaf miner (Phyllocnistis populeiella Chamb.) damage. P. populeiella is a defoliator of trembling aspen that has been observed in epidemic proportions in Alaska since 2001. Where it is observed it is ubiquitous. Unlike most remote sensing studies of insect damage, I found no significant change in the near-infrared related to leaf miner damage. The feeding morphology of P. populeiella is different from most other leaf defoliating insects. P. populeiella feeds only in the epidermal tissue (Condrashoff 1962) of aspen leaves whereas most other leaf mining insect pests consume mesophyll tissue (**Hering 1951). This means that P. populeiella causes no significant change in near infrared reflectance whereas most other defoliators do. This lack of change in near infrared range coupled with the timing of leaf miner foraging can be used to do discriminate P. populeiella damage from that of other leaf defoliators. The ability to remotely sense damage in aspen stands provides an opportunity to identify P. tremuloides in locations where damage is epidemic. If new image acquisition and historic image purchases are timed to correspond with P. populeiella outbreak conditions, it will be possible to identify areas that are P. tremuloides stands and not other species