Since the 1930s, the United States Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program has inventoried the nation’s forests to produce “The Nation’s Forest Census.” This census provides valuable snapshots of forests in the lower 48 states, Hawaii, southeast Alaska, and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands. Although select areas of interior Alaska have been inventoried, a systematic inventory hasn’t been conducted due to the interior’s remoteness and correspondingly higher inventory costs.
A team composed of researchers with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, American University, and Michigan State University developed a remote-sensing and groundbased solution to inventory interior Alaska. In 2014, a pilot project conducted in the Tanana Valley demonstrated that the combination of Goddard’s LiDAR Hyperspectral and Thermal airborne imager (G-LiHT), field-based plots, and a modified sampling protocol produced a dataset that managers could use with a high confidence in its accuracy.
Because of the pilot project’s success, Congress provided funding to implement the FIA inventory in all of interior Alaska. The team is conducting inventories as part of a 10-year collaboration jointly funded by the Forest Service and NASA. The Tanana Inventory Unit, one of five units, was completed in 2018; also in 2018, the Susitna-Copper Inventory Unit was surveyed with G-LiHT, and FIA ground plot measurements will be completed in 2020.
Watts, Andrea; Andersen, Hans-Erik; Cook, Bruce; Alonzo, Mike. 2019. Innovation in the Interior: How state-of-the-art remote sensing is helping to inventory Alaska’s last frontier. Science Findings 222. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p.