GEOG 566

         Advanced spatial statistics and GIScience

April 5, 2019

A stain on the record? Have forest management practices set up PNW landscapes for a black-stain-filled future?

Describe the research question that you are exploring.

I am looking at how forest management practices influence the spread of black stain root disease (BSRD), a fungal root disease that affects Douglas-fir in the Pacific Northwest. While older trees become infected, BSRD primarily causes mortality in younger trees (< 30-35 years old). Management practices (e.g., thinning, harvest) attract insects that carry the disease and are associated with increased BSRD incidence. As forest management practices in the Pacific Northwest change to favor shorter-rotations of Douglas-fir monocultures, the distribution of Douglas-fir age classes is shifting towards younger stands and the frequency of harvest disturbance is increasing across the landscape. Though limited, our present understanding of this disease system indicates that these management trends, as well as the resulting disturbance regime and forest landscape age structure, may be creating favorable conditions for BSRD spread.

In this course, I would like to use spatial analyses to answer the question of whether forest management and the conditions that it creates act as a driver of the spread of black stain root disease. Specifically:

  • How do spatial patterns of forest management practices and the forest stand and landscape conditions that they create relate to spatial patterns of BSRD infection probabilities at the stand and landscape scale?
  • How do spatial patterns of forest management practices relate to landscape connectivity with respect to BSRD by affecting the area of susceptible forest and creating dispersal corridors and/or barriers throughout the landscape?

Example landscape with stands of three different forest management regimes (shades of green) and trees infected by black stain root disease (red). Forgive the 90s-esque graphics… NetLogo, the program I am using to develop and run my model, is powerful but old-school.

Describe the dataset you will be analyzing, including the spatial and temporal resolution and extent.

I will be analyzing the raster outputs of a spatial model that I built in the agent-based modeling program NetLogo (Wilensky 1999). The rasters contain the states of forested landscapes (managed as individual stands) at a given time during the model run. Variables include tree age, presence/absence of trees, management regime, probability of infection, infection status (infected/not infected), and cause of infection (root transmission, vector transmission).

The forested landscapes I am looking at are about 3,000 to 4,000 ha, with each pixel representing a ~1.5 m x 1.5 m area that can occupied by one tree. I run each model for a 300-year time series with 1-year intervals, though raster outputs may be produced at 10-year intervals.

Hypotheses: predict the kinds of patterns you expect to see in your data, and the processes that produce or respond to these patterns.

I hypothesize that landscapes with higher proportions of intensively managed, short-rotation stands will have higher probabilities of BSRD infection at the stand and landscape scales. In landscapes with high proportion of short-rotation stands, there will be large areas of suitable habitat for the pathogen and its vectors, frequent harvest that attracts disease vectors, and greater levels of connectivity for the spread of disease. In landscapes with a large proportion of older forests managed for conservation, I hypothesize that these forests will act as barriers to the spread of BSRD. High connectivity could be evidenced by greater landscape-scale dispersion of infections, whereas low connectivity would lead to a high degree of clustering of infections in the landscape.

I also hypothesize that intensively managed, short-rotation stands will have the highest probabilities of infection, followed by intensively managed, medium-rotation stands, and finally old-growth stands. However, I hypothesize that each stand’s probability of infection will depend not only on its own management but also on the management of neighboring stands and the broader landscape. At some threshold proportion of intensive management in the landscape, I hypothesize that there will be a shift in the scale of the drivers of infection, such that landscape-scale management patterns overtake stand-scale management as a predictor of infection probability.

Approaches: Describe the kinds of analyses you ideally would like to undertake and learn about this term, using your data.

I would like to learn about landscape connectivity analyses and spatial statistics such as clustering/dispersion as well as spatiotemporal analyses to analyze the relationships between discrete disturbance events and disease spread. I would like to learn how to separate the effects of connectivity from the effect of the area of suitable pathogen habitat. I am most interested in using R or Python to analyze my data, and I would like to move away from ESRI programs because of my interest in open-source and free tools for science and the prohibitive cost of ESRI software licenses for independent researchers and organizations with limited financial means.

Expected outcome – What do you want to produce – Maps? Statistical relationships?

My primary interest is to evaluate statistical relationships between spatial patterns of management and disease measures, but I would also like to produce maps to demonstrate model inputs and outputs (i.e., figures for my thesis).

Significance – How is your spatial problem important to science? To resource managers?

From a scientific perspective, this research aims to contribute to the body of research examining relationships between spatial patterns and ecological processes and complex behaviors in ecological systems. This research will examine how the diversity of the landscape age structure and disturbance regimes affect the susceptibility of the landscape to disease, contributing to literature relating diversity and stability in ecological systems. In addition, “neighborhood” and “spillover” effects will be tested by analyzing stand-scale infection probability with respect to the infection probability of neighboring stands and more broadly in the landscape. Analysis of threshold responses to changes in stand- and landscape-scale management patterns and shifts in the scale of disease drivers will contribute to understanding of cross-scale system interactions and emergent properties in the field of complex systems science.

From an applied perspective, the goal of this research is to inform management practices and understand the potential threat of black stain root disease in the Pacific Northwest. This will be achieved by improving understanding of the drivers of BSRD spread at multuiple scales and highlighting priority areas for future research. This project is a first step towards identifying evidence-based, landscape-scale management strategies that could be taken to mitigate BSRD disease issues. In addition, the structure of this model provides a platform for looking at multi-scale interactions between forest management and spatial spread processes. Its use is not restricted to a specific region and could be adapted for other current and emerging disease issues.

Your level of preparation – How much experience do you have with: (a) Arc-Info, (b) Modelbuilder and/or GIS programming in Python, (c) R, (d) image processing, (e) other relevant software

Over the past 5 years, I have worked on and off with all the programs/platforms listed. For some, I have been formally trained, but for others, I have been largely self-taught. However, lack of continuous use has eroded my skills to some degree.

a. I have frequently used ArcInfo for making maps, visualizing data, and processing and analyzing spatial data. However, I do not have a lot of experience with spatial statistics in ArcInfo.

b. Modelbuilder/Python: Last spring, I took GEOG 562 and learned to program in Python, developing a script that used arcpy to prepare and manipulate spatial data for my final project. I felt comfortable programming in Python at that time, but I have not used Python much since the course.

c. I have frequently used R to clean and prepare data, perform simple statistical analyses (ANOVA, linear regression), and create plots. I have taken several workshops on using R for spatial analysis, but I have used rarely used the R packages I learned about outside of those workshops.

d. I have used ENVI to correct, patch, and combine satellite images, and I have performed supervised classifications to create land cover maps. I have worked primarily with LANDSAT images. I have also used CLASlite (an image processing software designed for classifying tropical forest cover).

e. Covered in part d.


Wilensky, U. (1999). NetLogo. Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

Adam Bouché

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1 Comment »

  1.   jonesju — April 7, 2019 @ 12:35 pm    

    Adam, nice start. Some work needed. 1) research question lacks the mechanism – can you restate a single question that includes this? 3) hypothesis. try rephrasing hypothesis as: the spatial pattern of infection (A) depends on the spatial pattern of intensively managed stands (B), i.e., a stand’s infection status depends on the infection status and management of its neighbors, because the black stain disease is distance limited and disperses according to a kernel-density model (or some other model) (mechanism C). You predict that clustered patterns of intensively managed forest will promote disease spread but dispersed patterns separated by old forest will inhibit spread. 4) data analyses. try asking your model to create alternative configurations of harvest including varying proportions, patch sizes, and patch distributions of the three forest types; then evaluate their spatial patterns for Ex. 1. For Ex 2, develop a simple (agent based?) model of infection spread and run it on the alternative landscape configurations and track the spread of the disease. 5) products could include plots that relate patch size, patch spacing, to extent of infection from various model runs

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