Remote sensing for the Spanish forests in the 21st century: a review of advances, needs, and opportunities

Cristina Gómez, Pablo Alejandro, Txomin Hermosilla, Fernando Montes, Cristina Pascual, Luis Angel Ruiz, Flor Álvarez-Taboada, Mihai Tanase, Ruben Valbuena


Forest ecosystems provide a host of services and societal benefits, including carbon storage, habitat for fauna, recreation, and provision of wood or non-wood products. In a context of complex demands on forest resources, identifying priorities for biodiversity and carbon budgets require accurate tools with sufficient temporal frequency. Moreover, understanding long term forest dynamics is necessary for sustainable planning and management. Remote sensing (RS) is a powerful means for analysis, synthesis and report, providing insights and contributing to inform decisions upon forest ecosystems. In this communication we review current applications of RS techniques in Spanish forests, examining possible trends, needs, and opportunities offered by RS in a forestry context. Currently, wall-to-wall optical and LiDAR data are extensively used for a wide range of applications—many times in combination—whilst radar or hyperspectral data are rarely used in the analysis of Spanish forests. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) carrying visible and infrared sensors are gaining ground in acquisition of data locally and at small scale, particularly for health assessments. Forest fire identification and characterization are prevalent applications at the landscape scale, whereas structural assessments are the most widespread analyses carried out at limited extents. Unparalleled opportunities are offered by the availability of diverse RS data like those provided by the European Copernicus programme and recent satellite LiDAR launches, processing capacity, and synergies with other ancillary sources to produce information of our forests. Overall, we live in times of unprecedented opportunities for monitoring forest ecosystems with a growing support from RS technologies.

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2019281-14221