Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Brenden E. McNeil.

Committee Co-Chair

Timothy A. Warer

Committee Member

William T. Peterjohn


Eastern forests experience a range of disturbance events over time, from stand-replacing disturbances, such as clear cuts, to ephemeral disturbances, such as insect outbreaks. By understanding the cumulative impact of disturbances on canopy structure and chemistry, we can gain insight into management strategies, assess a variety of ecosystem services, and even contribute to a larger body of knowledge on global climate change. I transformed a series of Landsat images spanning approximately 25 years into cumulative disturbance maps covering Green Ridge State Forest and Savage River State Forest in western Maryland. Intensive field surveys collected during the summer of 2009 provided measurements of canopy N and estimates of canopy cover, understory cover, and leaf cover. I used AVIRIS imagery flown concurrently with field data collection to map canopy nitrogen across both forests. Through this project, I tested the impact of cumulative disturbance on forest canopy cover and canopy nitrogen. I found that increased values of cumulative disturbance had a measurable negative impact on forest canopy structure and canopy nitrogen. Moreover, by testing varying methods of summing cumulative disturbance, I found that past disturbances diminish over time in importance, yet still influence the current canopy structure and canopy N of a forest. Thus, my study suggests that Landsat time series data can be synthesized into cumulative metrics incorporating multiple disturbance types, which help explain important disturbance-mediated changes in ecosystem functions.