Salt cedar (Tamarix sp.) is an invasive plant in the western United States and northern Mexico that is causing serious environmental harm for native plants and animals as well as human land use. Traditional mechanical and chemical means for control are largely ineffective. As part of a consortium of governmental agencies, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is field testing a Chinese beetle for biocontrol of salt cedar. Kite aerial photography was employed to obtain large-scale, high-resolution imagery of the study site in order to document the extent of beetle defoliation of salt cedar during the growing season. GSD of 1-2 cm was achieved in vertical airphotos, which allowed identification of defoliated salt cedar patches as small as 1 dm2.

Quantitative analysis of vertical kite aerial photographs provided a minimum areal estimate for the amount of defoliation in salt cedar. Consideration of the 3D geometry of salt-cedar defoliation and its appearance in 2D vertical imagery demonstrates how complex such a seemingly simple problem can be; any such SFAP analysis should be taken with care. Based on this preliminary success, KAP was adopted by the USBR and other agencies for monitoring and documenting biocontrol study sites across the western United States.

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