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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