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Analysing forest recovery after wildfire disturbance in boreal Siberia using remotely sensed vegetation indices

Authors

  • MARÍA CUEVAS-GONZÁLEZ,

    1. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Monks Wood, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 2LS, UK,
    2. Departamento de Geografía, Universidad de Alcalá, Colegios 2, E-28801 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain,
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  • FRANCE GERARD,

    1. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Monks Wood, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 2LS, UK,
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  • HEIKO BALZTER,

    1. Department of Geography, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK,
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  • DAVID RIAÑO

    1. Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing (CSTARS), University of California, 250-N, The Barn, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616-8617, USA,
    2. Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), C/Albasanz 26-28, E-28037 Madrid, Spain
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France Gerard, tel. +44 1487 772482, fax +44 1487 773467, e-mail: ffg@ceh.ac.uk

Abstract

Wildfires have major effects on forest dynamics, succession and the carbon cycle in the boreal biome. They are a significant source of carbon emissions, and current observed changes in wildfire regimes due to changes in climate could affect the balance of the boreal carbon pool. A better understanding of postwildfire vegetation dynamics in boreal forests will help predict the future role of boreal forests as a carbon sink or source. Time series of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Normalized Difference Shortwave Infrared Index (NDSWIR) derived from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite were used to investigate whether characteristic temporal patterns exist for stands of different ages in the Siberian boreal forests and whether their postwildfire dynamics are influenced by variables such as prewildfire vegetation cover. Two types of forests, evergreen needle-leaf (ENF) and deciduous needle-leaf (DNF), were studied by analysing a sample of 78 burned forest areas. In order to study a longer time frame, a chronosequence of burned areas of different ages was built by coupling information on location and age provided by a forest burned area database (from 1992 to 2003) to MODIS NDVI and NDSWIR time series acquired from 2001 to 2005. For each of the burned areas, an adjacent unburned control plot representing the same forest type was selected, with the aim of separating the interannual variations caused by climate from changes in NDVI and NDSWIR behaviour due to a wildfire. The results suggest that it takes more than 13 years for the temporal NDVI and NDSWIR signal to recover fully after wildfire. NDSWIR, which is associated to canopy moisture, needs a longer recovery period than NDVI, which is associated to vegetation greenness. The results also suggest that variability observed in postwildfire NDVI and NDSWIR can be explained partially by the dominant forest type: while 13 years after a fire NDVI and NDSWIR are similar for ENF and DNF, the initial impact appears to be greater on the NDVI and NDSWIR of ENF, suggesting a faster recovery by ENF.

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