Appalachian Fire

This project addresses the cross-seasonal impacts of wildfire and prescribed fire impacts in ways that best capture the concerns of forest managers and planners. Existing 30m Landsat-derived maps of growing season impacts normally use dNBR to convey canopy severity in eastern deciduous forests, consistent with the conifer-dominated western US. But eastern forest compositional and structural diversity, post-fire response and productivity, as well as strong seasonality with respect to the fire season adds challenging complications to eastern fire impact assessments. Impacts of concern include both patch and fine-resolution species-specific gap phase dynamics, and these responses-of-concern are readily diluted at 30m resolution. Understanding the specific impacts to flammable understory shrubs is most critical as these can change independent of the overstory. Prescribed burn objectives often include selectively reducing understory fuels while minimizing overstory tree loss, so the summer canopy can largely mask change in the targeted objective of the burn. To overcome these existing problems, our research uses 10m products to capture the scale of the targeted dynamic and to minimize the problem of mixed composition endemic to these forests. We rely on cross-seasonal imagery to help isolate understory evergreen from overstory evergreen and deciduous impacts. We also rely on vegetation-sensitive indices instead of a coarser-resolution burn index to better capture the vegetation signal for multi-year monitoring after reburns and post-fire recovery, toward a regionally tailored and more comprehensive measure of wildfire impacts and fuel treatment success.

Silver Mine fire. Credit: Kenny Frick USFS

2016 Southern Appalachian wildfires