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Multispectral imaging

FireWatch helps to equip the Tree San Diego team with state-of-the-art technology that changes the way we approach urban forestry projects (check out what FireWatch is doing with the Branch Out project here!). FireWatch scientists use aerial imaging with multispectral cameras as a critical assessment tool to help quantify the benefits of trees and urban forests. Multispectral imaging, whether collected by drones or light aircraft, can be extremely useful in developing urban forest policies, planning and management, and tracking environmental changes over time.


​Multispectral imaging captures light from a narrow range of wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum. These wavelengths include lights from frequencies that are invisible to the human eye such as infrared and ultra-violet light. Multispectral images are an effective tool for analyzing plant health. Viewing the health of an urban forest can be a challenging task from the ground in large geographical areas. Multispectral imaging can locate issues that otherwise remain invisible to the naked eye – before they develop into serious problems.


Color infrared imagery of dying trees, FireWatch 2019 


​Imagery of dead and dying trees, FireWatch 2019 


Tree Canopy Assessment


Aerial imagery can accurately determine the percentage of canopy cover and planting potential with high-resolution image maps. New assessment tools can calculate biomass for carbon sequestration and heat island effect. 


Urban Forest Health


Aerial imaging data and metrics provide a snapshot of the health, extent and structure of an urban forest in order to quantify the benefits that it provides. Spectral vegetation indices provide an important diagnostic tool for measuring and understanding vegetative health. 


Change Detection


The urban forest is a dynamic, living resource that is facing abrupt changes and threats. Aerial imaging can help meet the challenges and demands posed by both human and natural system changes, which often happen rapidly. Changes in reflectance can indicate that trees have become stressed, prompting field teams to investigate and potentially intervene before a small-scale problem becomes more widespread. 

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