Examining post-fire vegetation recovery with Landsat time series analysis in three western North American forest types

TitleExamining post-fire vegetation recovery with Landsat time series analysis in three western North American forest types
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsBright, BC
Secondary AuthorsHudak, AT
Tertiary AuthorsKennedy, RE
Subsidiary AuthorsBraaten, JD, Khalyani, AH
JournalFire Ecology
Start Page8
Keywordsburn severity, Fire and Climate, fire intensity, Fire regime, Mapping, technical reports and journal articles

Background: Few studies have examined post-fire vegetation recovery in temperate forest ecosystems with Landsat time series analysis. We analyzed time series of Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR) derived from LandTrendr spectral-temporal segmentation fitting to examine post-fire NBR recovery for several wildfires that occurred in three different coniferous forest types in western North America during the years 2000 to 2007. We summarized NBR recovery trends, and investigated the influence of burn severity, post-fire climate, and topography on post-fire vegetation recovery via random forest (RF) analysis.

Results: NBR recovery across forest types averaged 30 to 44% five years post fire, 47 to 72% ten years post fire, and 54 to 77% 13 years post fire, and varied by time since fire, severity, and forest type. Recovery rates were generally greatest for several years following fire. Recovery in terms of percent NBR was often greater for higher-severity patches. Recovery rates varied between forest types, with conifer−oak−chaparral showing the greatest NBR recovery rates, mixed conifer showing intermediate rates, and ponderosa pine showing slowest rates. Between 1 and 28% of patches had recovered to pre-fire NBR levels 9 to 16 years after fire, with greater percentages of low-severity patches showing full NBR recovery. Precipitation decreased and temperatures generally remained the same or increased post fire. Pre-fire NBR and burn severity were important predictors of NBR recovery for all forest types, and explained 2 to 6% of the variation in post-fire NBR recovery. Post-fire climate anomalies were also important predictors of NBR recovery and explained an additional 30 to 41% of the variation in post-fire NBR recovery.

Conclusions: Landsat time series analysis was a useful means of describing and analyzing post-fire vegetation recovery across mixed-severity wildfire extents. We demonstrated that a relationship exists between post-fire vegetation recovery and climate in temperate ecosystems of western North America. Our methods could be applied to other burned landscapes for which spatially explicit measurements of post-fire vegetation recovery are needed.