2010-09-10

Satellites offer clues to forest fates

Rocketing numbers of pine beetles have decimated areas of forest from British Columbia to Colorado so large they can be detected by satellites, authorities say.

NASA says scientists use Landsat satellite imagery to map these pine beetle outbreaks and determine what impact the beetle damage might have on forest fires.

University of Wisconsin forest ecologists compared maps of areas hardest-hit by the beetles with maps of recent fires. Their preliminary analysis indicates large fires do not appear to occur more often or with greater severity in forest tracts with beetle damage. In fact, some beetle-killed forest swaths may actually be less likely to burn.