Who Started the Fire? The Distribution of Vegetative Fuels in Southeast Idaho

Earthzine2015 Spring VPS, Analyzing Air Quality and Habitat Health, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session, Earth Observation

Who Started the Fire? The Distribution of Vegetative Fuels in Southeast Idaho

Category: Analyzing Air Quality and Habitat Health

Project Team: Idaho Disasters II

Team Location: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center – Greenbelt, Maryland and Idaho State University – Pocatello, Idaho

Displayed is the modified soil adjusted vegetation index from Landsat 8 on April 16, 2014, which was used to identify the early growth of cheatgrass. Image Credit: Idaho Disasters II Team


Jeff May

Andrea Bodenberg

Kiersten Newtoff

Kyle Sowder


John Schnase (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Mark Carroll (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Keith Weber (Idaho State University GIS Training and Research Center)

Past/Other Contributors:

Eric Smith

Kathryn Bradford


Wildfires play an important role in ecosystem health, with many native plant species dependent on fire to complete their life cycle. Wildfires also burn dead vegetation, which recycles nutrients back into the soil. However, longer dry periods and the prominence of invasive species (e.g., Bromus tectorum) have created favorable conditions in the western United States for larger and more frequent wildfires, which can disrupt ecosystems, human localities, and the critical habitats of endangered wildlife. To prepare for the fire season in Idaho, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) use vegetation moisture measurements from the National Fuel Moisture Database to identify and allocate resources to regions with drier vegetation during the year. In order to supplement their current data products, we created a vegetation map to identify vegetation species with high fire risk and highlight areas of high fuel concentration. The vegetation map was created using a decision-tree model on imagery from the Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager throughout the year in southeastern Idaho. The results and data gathered from this study will support IDL and BLM in allocating resources early in the fire season and planning fuel load reduction activities following the fire season.

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