Assessing canopy health of native eucalypt forests


  • Christine Stone,

  • Andrew Haywood

  • Christine Stone is a forest health scientist in the NSW Department of Primary Industries Science and Research Division (PO Box 100, Beecroft, NSW 2119, Australia. Tel. 02 98720132. Fax 02 98716941. Email:, and Andrew Haywood is a forestry consultant with Jaakko Pöyry Consulting (Level 5, 492 St Kilda Road., Vic. 3004, Australia. Email: The authors are working with other researchers to develop methodologies that cost-effectively quantify the location, extent and severity of unhealthy canopies in Australian forests.


Summary  The assessment of forest health is an essential part of the monitoring of ecological sustainability in managed native forests. In Australia, unfortunately, very limited quantitative information on forest health is actually obtained for management and reporting purposes. In this article, we summarize current approaches used in Australia to assess native forest health and some recent developments in the application of remotely acquired digital imagery for classifying canopy health. In a recent study examining Bell miner associated dieback (BMAD), high-resolution airborne imagery was successfully manipulated to present severity categories for BMAD affected canopy. The potential of remotely sensed imagery lies not in map production but in the statistical modelling capacity of this spatial information, particularly when added to climatic and terrain-based spatial data sets. There are several statistical approaches to modelling these spatial datasets and in this article, we discuss our approach to producing a preliminary BMAD model. The importance of ground-based assessments is also emphasized and we recommend tree crown condition as a key health attribute for the spatial modelling of forests. Although significant progress has been made in the application of remote sensing technologies, the structural complexity of native forests means that there are still technical issues that require resolving before this approach becomes operationally routine.