Playing with Fire: Delineating Fire History with Earth Observations

Category: Mapping Landscape Changes and Species Distribution
Project Team: Laramie Mountains Ecological Forecasting
Team Location: USGS at Colorado State University – Fort Collins, Colorado

A tasseled-cap composite of our study area depicting the Laramie Mountain Range, burn scars, agricultural landscapes, and rivers. Image Credit: Laramie Mountains Ecological Forecasting Team

A tasseled-cap composite of our study area depicting the Laramie Mountain Range, burn scars, agricultural landscapes, and rivers. Image Credit: Laramie Mountains Ecological Forecasting Team

Authors:
Stephanie Krail
Alexa Grafton
Aubrey Hilte
Darin Schulte
Brian Woodward

Mentors/Advisors:
Dr. Paul Evangelista (Colorado State University, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory)
Dr. Amanda West (Colorado State University, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory)

Past/Other Contributors:
Brian Woodward (Center Lead)

Abstract:

The Laramie Mountain Range, located in southeastern Wyoming, supports a multitude of plant and animal communities as well as human activities. Recreational opportunities, ample views, and critical mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and elk (Cervus canadensis) habitat are facets that depend heavily upon the presence of aspen (Populous tremuloides) communities. However, the success of these relationships is inhibited by the limited distribution of aspen in the Laramie Mountain Range. The ultimate objective of this two-term project is to evaluate the carrying capacities of mule deer and elk in the Laramie Mountain Range by identifying current aspen distribution. Due to the scattered distribution of aspen trees in southeastern Wyoming, understanding historic fire patterns and future fire susceptibility in areas of close proximity to aspen stands can inform management practices. Thirty-one years of remotely sensed data were processed to create a spectrally and spatially consistent tasseled-cap time series. Tasseled-cap indices were utilized to estimate fire severity and perform a supervised classification to detect burned areas. Results from both processes were compared with the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity product (which employs the Normalized Burn Ratio) to evaluate the use of tasseled-cap indices for fire monitoring. A fire hazard analysis was conducted to quantify fire susceptibility throughout the study area. Multi-temporal pixel values were extracted from spectral, topographic, and climatic indices and compared to pre-fire pixel values at historic fire locations. The similarity of a given pixel to previously burned pixels was estimated with a series of distance metrics.

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