Forest disturbance affects over 6.4% of European forests, with at least 44% of the total being due to biotic agents (EU, 2012). Among the biotic agents threatening European forests is the nematode Bursaphelenchus xylophilus (Steiner & Bührer, 1934) Nickle, 1970, often called Pinewood Nematode (PWN).

PWN is found in many countries around the world, and it was first detected in Europe in 1999, in a region to the south of Lisbon, Portugal. The nematode is responsible for the Pine Wilt Disease, which leads to the death of host trees. Since first detection, national and European authorities struggle to contain and eradicate this agent that leads to the death of the host trees. The nematode spreads through a vector insect of the genus Monochamus allowing it to disseminate over large swaths of land every year.

The timely detection of affected trees and a better comprehension of spread and tolerance mechanisms are essential to turn the tide on the fight against the nematode and ensure the sustainability of European forests.

To this end, FOCUS was launched as a project funded by Horizon 2020 aimed at demonstrating an innovative extension of an existing forest service monitoring service ( using a combination of multispectral and hyperspectral data acquired from:

  • Satellite imagery (Sentinel-2, Landsat, and commercial high resolution);
  • Remotely Piloted Aerial Platforms (RPAS);
  • Airborne surveys

These data will be employed to detect and characterize stands of Maritime Pine. With extensive field campaigns being carried out simultaneously the development of multiple value-adding data products, supporting enhanced forest management is guaranteed.


Figure: A Maritime Pine displaying the symptoms of Pine Wilt Disease (FOCUS Field Survey data)

Quick facts

Project Start Date: January 2018

Project End Date: December 2020

Total budget: 1 946 554 €

Project Coordinator: University of Coimbra, Portugal

Project Partners: Science & Technology AS (Norway) & Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek  N.V. (Belgium)