Overview of thermal imaging for three assessment

“Decay detection devices” are a “hot topic in arboriculture” at the moment and Giorgio Catena, a leading expert in thermal imaging, gave three presentations including a practical demonstration to put forward a case for thermal imaging cameras.

Examples were presented where trees had been assessed using the thermal imaging camera and subsequently felled to be cut up to reveal decayed areas. As part of his trip to England Georgio was meeting with a research specialist based as Nottingham University to start a project that will look at the reasons why “thermal imaging cameras appear able to identify decay in trees”.

The value of “thermography for trees” is reviewed in relation to the needs of inspectors and diagnosticians in the fields of forestry, arboriculture and veteran tree management. “Images obtained with an infrared camera allow the early detection of various kinds of alteration in trees”, including “bark necrosis”, “decay” and the onset of adaptive growth in response to damage or mechanical stress. Advantages include total non-invasiveness, rapidity of use, the provision of ‘real-time’ information and the ability to work at a distance of as much as 25 m. In order to assess trees, however, the surfaces must be out of direct sunlight, free from running water and unobscured. The images do not distinguish between different kinds of alteration automatically, but they can usually be correctly interpreted in the light of appropriate knowledge and experience. The technique does not allow a truly quantitative assessment of the relative extent of decayed and sound wood, but it appears to be accurate enough to identify trees which merit either remedial action or more precise assessment.

Keywords: Tree physiology, Tree assessment, Veteran trees management, Habitat
assessment, Tree decay, Tree hazard assessment, Thermography, Thermal imaging,
Infrared photography, Phytophthora spp.


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