Estimating the effect of gypsy moth defoliation using MODIS

K.M. de Beurs*, P.A. Townsend

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)


The area of North American forests affected by gypsy moth defoliation continues to expand despite efforts to slow the spread. With the increased area of infestation, ecological, environmental and economic concerns about gypsy moth disturbance remain significant, necessitating coordinated, repeatable and comprehensive monitoring of the areas affected. In this study, our primary objective was to estimate the magnitude of defoliation using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery for a gypsy moth outbreak that occurred in the US central Appalachian Mountains in 2000 and 2001. We focused on determining the appropriate spectral MODIS indices and temporal compositing method to best monitor the effects of gypsy moth defoliation. We tested MODIS-based Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI), and two versions of the Normalized Difference Infrared Index (NDIIb6 and NDIIb7, using the channels centered on 1640 nm and 2130 nm respectively) for their capacity to map defoliation as estimated by ground observations. In addition, we evaluated three temporal resolutions: daily, 8-day and 16-day data. We validated the results through quantitative comparison to Landsat based defoliation estimates and traditional sketch maps. Our MODIS based defoliation estimates based on NDIIb6 and NDIIb7 closely matched Landsat defoliation estimates derived from field data as well as sketch maps. We conclude that daily MODIS data can be used with confidence to monitor insect defoliation on an annual time scale, at least for larger patches (> 0.63 km2). Eight-day and 16-day MODIS composites may be of lesser use due to the ephemeral character of disturbance by the gypsy moth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3983-3990
Number of pages8
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Forests
  • Gypsy moth
  • Insect disturbance
  • NDII
  • NDVI
  • NDWI


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