A Keystone Species, European Aspen (Populus tremula L.), in Boreal Forests: Ecological Role, Knowledge Needs and Mapping Using Remote Sensing
Forest Ecology and Management
European aspen (Populus tremula L.) is a keystone species in boreal forests that are dominated by coniferous tree species. Both living and dead aspen trees contribute significantly to the species diversity of forest landscapes. Thus, spatial and temporal continuity of aspen is a prerequisite for the long-term persistence of viable populations of numerous aspen-associated species. In this review, we collate existing knowledge on the ecological role of European aspen, assess the knowledge needs for aspen occurrence patterns and dynamics in boreal forests and discuss the potential of different remote sensing techniques in mapping aspen at various spatiotemporal scales. The role of aspen as a key ecological feature has received significant attention, and studies have recognised the negative effects of modern forest management methods and heavy browsing on aspen occurrence and regeneration. However, the spatial knowledge of occurrence, abundance and temporal dynamics of aspen is scarce and incomprehensive. The remote sensing studies reviewed here highlight particularly the potential of three-dimensional data derived from airborne laser scanning or photogrammetric point clouds and airborne imaging spectroscopy in mapping European aspen, quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) and other Populus species. In addition to tree species discrimination, these methods can provide information on biophysical, biochemical properties and even genetic diversity of aspen trees. Major obstacles in aspen detection using remote sensing are the low proportion and scattered occurrence of European aspen in boreal forests and the overlap of spectral and/or structural properties of European aspen and quaking aspen with some other tree species. Furthermore, the suitability of remote sensing data for aspen mapping and monitoring depends on the geographical coverage of data, the availability of multitemporal data and the costs of data acquisition. Our review highlights that integration of ecological knowledge with spatiotemporal information acquired by remote sensing is key to understanding the current and future distribution patterns of aspen-related biodiversity.
Kivinen, S., E. Koivisto, S. Keski-Saari, L. Poikolainen, T. Tanhuanpää, A. Kuzmin, A. Viinikka, R. K. Heikkinen, J. Pykälä, and R. Virkkala. 2020. A keystone species, European aspen (Populus tremula L.), in boreal forests: Ecological role, knowledge needs and mapping using remote sensing. Forest Ecology and Management 462:118008.