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Space-Based Tool Offers Early Forest Warning

Space-Based Tool Offers Early Forest Warning

Changing climate conditions are stressing forest areas, NASA and U.S. Forest Service team up to tackle the problem.

Warmer winters, dryer conditions, changing pest challenges - all are signs of altered climate conditions. Recently the U.S. Forest Service unveiled a product that helps natural resource managers rapidly detect, identify and respond to unexpected changes in the nation's forest using web-based tools.

The satellite-based monitoring and assessment tool - called ForWarn - recognizes and tracks potential forest disturbances caused by insects, diseases, wildfires, extreme weather and other natural or human-caused events. Whether its climate change or other factors, this system helps the Forest Service track problems.

SUPER MAP: ForWarn maps normal forest conditions as blue and change from normal as shades that range from green to red. This map shows that the greater part of Texas and Oklahoma were experiencing severe forest stress in late September of 2011 from the effects of drought and wildfire.

ForWarn was developed by the USDA Forest Service's Eastern Forest and Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Centers, NASA Stennis Space Center, and other federal and university partners. NASA's satellite imagery is the backbone of ForWarn, which provides maps of forest change throughout the lower 48 states every eight days that users can explore and share. Maps archived since 2010 provide deeper insight into disturbance and forest recovery.

"This tool literally puts space-age technology into the hands of forest resource professionals," says Danny C. Lee, Director of the Eastern Threat Center. "The tool helps them to better identify and react to environmental disturbances."

Federal and state natural resource managers throughout the country are currently using ForWarn which complements efforts of other more specialized forest monitoring programs. The tool is intended to generate time and cost savings, and, ultimately, a new network of users working together to sustain the health of the nation's forest resources. Visit to learn more.

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