Wildfire Destruction: A Changing Fire Regime Threatens Local Fauna

Category: Identifying Invasive Species Extent & Critical Species Habitat
Project Team: Eastern Idaho Disasters
Team Location: BLM at Idaho State University Geographic Information Systems Training and Research Center – Pocatello, Idaho

Initial Classification Tree result. Rock (red), water (blue), Grass (lime green), Forest/Slash (dark green), shrub (purple), masked/no data (gray). Classes are weighted in tons/acre. Image Credit: Eastern Idaho Disasters Team

Initial Classification Tree result. Rock (red), water (blue), Grass (lime green), Forest/Slash (dark green), shrub (purple), masked/no data (gray). Classes are weighted in tons/acre. Image Credit: Eastern Idaho Disasters Team

Authors:
Courtney Ohr
Jenna Williams
Priscilla Addison

Mentors/Advisors:
Keith Weber (GIS Training and Research Center at Idaho State University)
Dr. John Schnase (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
Mark Carroll (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Past/Other Contributors:
Jenna Williams (Center Lead)

Abstract:

Wildfires can be disastrous for declining, threatened, or endangered wildlife species. Encroachment of non-native annual grasses such as cheatgrass or woody-vegetation such as juniper have increased fuel loads, intensified wildfire severity, and altered fire regimes throughout the Great Basin and Intermountain West. This project partnered with Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (CRMO) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Idaho to identify wildlife habitats with increased susceptibility to wildfires due to fuel loads. This project is unique in its inclusion of kipukas, islands of wildlife habitats found throughout lava formations. Wildlife habitats of the diminished Greater Sage-grouse (GRSG) (Centrocercus uraphasignus) and declining mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) were included in the study. Two primary non-anthropogenic threats to GRSG sustainability are wildfires and invasive annual grasses dominating low- to mid-elevation sagebrush. This project leveraged Landsat 8 Operational Land Imagery (OLI) data from June 2015, Sentinel-2 data from June 2016, fuel loads measured in tons per acre, and topographic variables to produce an at-risk habitat wildfire susceptibility model. Weightings from expert opinion and industry standards were applied to model variables to discern fire behavior and habitat vulnerability. Methods developed provided decision-makers with new and effective ways to monitor remote areas and threatened habitats.

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6 Comments

Daryl Ann Winstead (Mekong River Basin Agriculture) 18-08-2016, 12:38

Great video! Along with what Brian said, it was great to learn more about the project! Did the team use a model to create the suitability maps? Thanks in advance!

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Jenna Williams 18-08-2016, 14:17

Thank you! The showcase was such a great way to meet the people who worked on these projects.

We used multiple different sub models to produce the final products. Many of the models we used were developed from the Ercanoglu et al., 2006 project that looked at modeling wildland fire susceptibility for the Wildland Urban Interface. We were very fortunate that one of our project collaborators, Idaho Fish and Game, had very current habitat suitability maps for mule deer that was . They also provided us with 2015 observed lekking sites as point data for Greater Sage-grouse that we integrated into our other sub-models.

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Daryl Ann Winstead (Mekong River Basin Agriculture) 18-08-2016, 19:14

Wow! That’s incredible! I am going to check out the Ercanoglu et al. 2006 project! Thank you for your response!

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Brian Woodward 16-08-2016, 02:32

Very nice video, Idaho!

It was awesome to see your whole video following the highlights you presented at the DEVELOP showcase. I really appreciated your detailed description of these important species and habitats and the impact increased fire events have on them. Great research!

All my best,
Brian Woodward

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Sara Lubkin 13-08-2016, 19:49

Awesome project! What would you have added if you had more time?

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Jenna Williams 15-08-2016, 13:38

Thanks Sara it was a great project to work on. There are so many things we would add if given more time…but I think the most informative data would be graduated habitat suitability data for the Greater Sage-grouse, like that of the mule deer. Currently our results may be overestimating the highly susceptible areas. We applied a 10 km buffer around active and occupied lekking grounds, area where male bird attract female birds during the mating season, based on 2015 observations by the Idaho Fish and Game. Roughly 68% of nests are found within the aforementioned buffer according to the Bureau of Land Management so we applied the assumption that everything within this buffer is suitable habitat. Incorporating graduated habitat suitability data would allow us to increase the accuracy of the locations that have high fire susceptibility therefore providing park and land managers with more refined maps.

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