An approach for high-resolution mapping of Hawaiian Metrosideros Forest mortality using Laser-Guided Imaging Spectroscopy

Nicholas R. Vaughn, Gregory P. Asner, Philip G. Brodrick, Roberta E. Martin, Joseph W. Heckler, David E. Knapp, R. Flint Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Rapid 'Ōhi'a Death (ROD) is a disease aggressively killing large numbers of Metrosideros polymorpha ('ōhi'a), a native keystone tree species on Hawaii Island. This loss threatens to deeply alter the biological make-up of this unique island ecosystem. Spatially explicit information about the present and past advancement of the disease is essential for its containment; yet, currently such data are severely lacking. To this end, we used the Carnegie Airborne Observatory to collect Laser-Guided Imaging Spectroscopy data and high-resolution digital imagery across > 500,000 ha of Hawaii Island in June-July 2017. We then developed a method to map individual tree crowns matching the symptoms of both active (brown; desiccated 'ōhi'a crowns) and past (leafless tree crowns) ROD infection using an ensemble of two distinct machine learning approaches. Employing a very conservative classification scheme for minimizing false-positives, model sensitivity rates were 86.9 and 82.5, and precision rates were 97.4 and 95.3 for browning and leafless crowns, respectively. Across the island of Hawaii, we found 43,134 individual crowns suspected of exhibiting the active (browning) stage of ROD infection. Hotspots of potential ROD infection are apparent in the maps. The peninsula on the eastern side of Hawaii known as the Puna district, where the ROD outbreak likely originated, contained a particularly high density of brown crown detections. In comparison, leafless crown detections were much more numerous (547,666 detected leafless crowns in total) and more dispersed across the island. Mapped hotspots of likely ROD incidence across the island will enable scientists, administrators, and land managers to better understand both where and how ROD spreads and how to apply limited resources to limiting this spread.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number502
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Biological invasion
  • Carnegie Airborne Observatory
  • Forest pathogens
  • Hawaii Island
  • Rapid 'Ōhi'a Death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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