Steppe-ing Into Wildfire Recovery

This article is a part of the NASA DEVELOP’s Summer 2017 Virtual Poster Session. For more articles like these, click here

Project Team: Southern Idaho Disasters
Team Location: BLM at Idaho State University GIS TReC – Pocatello, Idaho
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Austin Counts
Nicholas Olsen
Cassidy Quistorff
Caitlin Toner
Courtney Ohr

Keith Weber (Idaho State University, GIS TReC)
Joe Spruce (Science Systems and Applications Inc.)

Second Modified Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (MSAVI2) values within the Crystal wildfire boundary indicate the presence of vegetation after the 2006 wildfire. Surrounding values indicate the phenology surrounding the study area, derived from ForWarn phenology products. Image Credit: Southern Idaho Disasters Team

Increasing wildfire frequency has emphasized the importance of post-wildfire recovery efforts in southern Idaho’s sagebrush-steppe ecosystem. The changing fire regime favors annual invasive grass species while hindering native grasses and sagebrush habitat regeneration, causing a positive feedback cycle of invasive plants. Due in part to this undesirable process, the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem is one of the most endangered in the US. In this project, the Idaho NASA DEVELOP team partnered with the Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to characterize ecosystem recovery following the 2006 Crystal wildfire. Vegetation recovery following the Crystal fire (2006) was observed from 2001 to 2016 using NASA Earth observations Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM), Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI), Aqua and Terra Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). In addition, significant factors affecting recovery were identified, and recovery of the landscapes carbon sequestration capacity was assessed. Key variables analyzed included biomass production, seasonally accumulated precipitation, max seasonal temperature, and elevation including slope and aspect. These factors affect land management by driving the success or failure of recovery efforts.

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