Do invasive exotic trees and plants affect our ecosystem?

Through remote sensing, the influence of invasive exotic trees and plants on a local biotope can be monitored. But what is the influence of these exotic plants on the entire ecosystem? The European project DIARS tries to find out.

The partners of DIARS (Detection of Invasive plant species and Assessment of their impact on ecosystem properties through Remote Sensing) study the influence of so-called exotic species: black cherry and a kind of moss that is steadily spreading throughout Western Europe. To get a better understanding of how these species colonise the ecosystem, researchers from one American and seven European knowledge institutions use remote sensing.

Using special camera-equipped planes, they focus on three project areas: the German Wadden Sea island Sylt, the Belgian heathland in Averbode and the Compiègne forest in northern France.
 With the hyperspectral APEX camera (Airborne Prism EXperiment), a spectral 'signature' of both exotic species was made. LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) laser images simulate the habitats in 3D. Based on the aerial images and supplementary observations in the field, the research partners study how the exotic species can be characterised, where they occur, and what effect they have on the surrounding ecosystem.  
 

VITO's role

VITO is coordinating the DIARS project.  It is organising the camera flights and turning the collected data into ecological spatial models. Based on the APEX and LiDAR images and surface observations, VITO will construct a layered image. That image will teach ecologists and policy-makers which ecosystems are influenced by invasive exotic species.

DIARS: facts & figures
  • Partner project between eight European partners in five countries
  • Part of the European ERA-NET BiodivERsA programme
  • Duration: January 2014 - January 2018
  • Budget: €1,100,000
     
To get a better understanding of how these species colonise the ecosystem, researchers from knowledge institutions use remote sensing.