Can UAV-based infrared thermography be used to study plant-parasite interactions between mistletoe and Eucalypt trees?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Remote Sensing, 2018, 10 (12)
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© 2018 by the authors. Some of the remnants of the Cumberland Plain woodland, an endangered dry sclerophyllous forest type of New South Wales, Australia, host large populations of mistletoe. In this study, the extent of mistletoe infection was investigated based on a forest inventory. We found that the mistletoe infection rate was relatively high, with 69% of the Eucalyptus fibrosa and 75% of the E. moluccana trees being infected. Next, to study the potential consequences of the infection for the trees, canopy temperatures of mistletoe plants and of infected and uninfected trees were analyzed using thermal imagery acquired during 10 flights with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in two consecutive summer seasons. Throughout all flight campaigns, mistletoe canopy temperature was 0.3-2 K lower than the temperature of the eucalypt canopy it was growing in, suggesting higher transpiration rates. Differences in canopy temperature between infected eucalypt foliage and mistletoe were particularly large when incoming radiation peaked. In these conditions, eucalypt foliage from infected trees also had significantly higher canopy temperatures (and likely lower transpiration rates) compared to that of uninfected trees of the same species. The study demonstrates the potential of using UAV-based infrared thermography for studying plant-water relations of mistletoe and its hosts.
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