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Rapid Assessment of Tree Damage Resulting from a 2020 Windstorm in Iowa, USA

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A need to quantify the impact of a particular wind disturbance on forest resources may require rapid yet reliable estimates of damage. We present an approach for combining pre-disturbance forest inventory data with post-disturbance aerial survey data to produce design-based estimates of affected forest area and number and volume of trees damaged or killed. The approach borrows strength from an indirect estimator to adjust estimates from a direct estimator when post-disturbance remeasurement data are unavailable. We demonstrate this approach with an example application from a recent windstorm, known as the 2020 Midwest Derecho, which struck Iowa, USA, and adjacent states on 10-11 August 2020, delivering catastrophic damage to structures, crops, and trees. We estimate that 2.67 million trees and 1.67 million m3 of sound bole volume were damaged or killed on 23 thousand ha of Iowa forest land affected by the 2020 derecho. Damage rates for volume were slightly higher than for number of trees, and damage on live trees due to stem breakage was more prevalent than branch breakage, both likely due to higher damage probability in the dominant canopy of larger trees. The absence of post-storm observations in the damage zone limited direct estimation of storm impacts. Further analysis of forest inventory data will improve understanding of tree damage susceptibility under varying levels of storm severity. We recommend approaches for improving estimates, including increasing spatial or temporal extents of reference data used for indirect estimation, and incorporating ancillary satellite image-based products.


Iowa; wind disturbance; tree damage; tree mortality; forest inventory; indirect estimation; derecho


Goff, Thomas C.; Nelson, Mark D.; Liknes, Greg C.; Feeley, Tivon E.; Pugh, Scott A.; Morin, Randall S. 2021. Rapid Assessment of Tree Damage Resulting from a 2020 Windstorm in Iowa, USA. Forests. 12(5): 555-.

Last updated on: May 11, 2021