Project Team: Virginia Disasters Team
Team Location: Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
Amberle Keith (Idaho State University)
Allison Kunz (Christopher Newport University)
Victoria Baughman (Christopher Newport University)
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA DEVELOP National Science Advisor)
The Great Dismal Swamp ecosystem covers an area of more than 112,000 acres in Eastern Virginia and North Carolina. This area includes the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (GDSNWR) in Virginia, the Great Dismal Swamp State Park in North Carolina, and a number of small, surrounding communities. The region is heavily vegetated with marshy areas and a contiguous forest, and provides a habitat for a number of wildlife species. In the GDSNWR, fire is a common occurrence and is detrimental to wildlife and other interests in the refuge. Over the past few decades, regions of the ecosystem have become more urbanized, changing the dynamics of fire occurrence in the area. Regions of the swamp that previously burned are more susceptible to future burning due to the nature of the vegetation that regrows after a fire. Estimating the likelihood of fire and its impact on the refuge is a concern for how fire management practices are conducted and how resources are allocated.
Recent policy mandates that records be kept for all fires that occur within the refuge. This mandate creates an issue since many of the historic data are missing both inside, and especially outside, the refuge. Currently, data are collected using helicopter flyovers and ground surveys, which can be costly and time-consuming. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has compiled comprehensive records of fires within the refuge, however gaps still remain in the data. The objective of this project was to use satellite data from Landsat 5, 7, and 8 instruments and Terra MODIS from January 2003 to February 2014, in combination with the existing fire data to produce a fire atlas describing fire frequency and location. The fire atlas was constructed using the satellite imagery and historical fire data to calculate normalized burn ratios (dNBRs), normalized difference vegetation indices (NDVIs), and land cover changes. From this atlas, a fire susceptibility map was produced to better determine regions in the refuge that have higher suitability of fire occurrences and to help improve wildlife management practices.
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