Skip to Main Content
Strong winds cause severe damage worldwide to forested land every year. The devastating storms that struck large parts of Europe in late 1999 destroyed the equivalent of several years of normal forest harvesting, amounting to very large economical sums. Therefore, rapid mapping of damaged areas is of major importance for assessment of short-term actions as well as for long-term reforestation purposes. In this paper, the use of airborne CARABAS-II very high frequency (VHF) (20-90 MHz) synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery for high spatial resolution mapping of wind-thrown forests has been investigated and evaluated. The investigation was performed at a test site located in southern Sweden and dominated by Norway spruce forests. A regression model estimating radar backscattering amplitude prior to the storm was developed. The estimated amplitudes were compared to measured amplitudes after the storm. The results clearly show that the backscattering amplitude, at a given stem volume, is considerably higher for wind-thrown forests than for unaffected forests. Furthermore, the backscattering from fully harvested storm-damaged areas was, as expected, significantly lower than from unaffected stands. These findings imply that VHF SAR imagery has potential for mapping wind-thrown forests. However, to prevent ambiguities in increased backscattering caused by normal stem volume growth or wind-fellings, multitemporal change detection techniques using VHF SAR images acquired prior to and after wind-fellings would be preferable.