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Title: Chaparral recovery following a major fire with variable burn conditions

Author: Rachels, Diane H.; Stow, Douglas A.; O'Leary, John F.; Johnson, Harry D.; Riggan, Philip J.;

Date: 2016

Source: International Journal of Remote Sensing

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Wildfires are a common occurrence in California shrublands, maintaining ecosystem functions with the regeneration of key shrub species. The Cedar Fire of 2003 in southern California was unique in that a portion of it burned with wildfire accelerated by dry, strong northeasterly Santa Ana winds that later subsided, while the remaining area burned under an onshore, westerly wind of lower velocity and higher humidity. These nearby areas, having similar terrain, fuel type, and environments, burned under these different conditions. Our goal is to understand the connection between vegetation response to extreme fire events by analysing life-form regrowth in chaparral from the Santa Ana wind driven, Santa Ana backing, and non-Santa Ana fire types. Study sites representing these three fire conditions were based on fire progression maps generated from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) hotspot data. Shrub cover before and six years after the fire were mapped based on a spatial contextual classifier applied to colour infrared orthoimagery, and analysed per slope aspect and angle, elevation, and fire characteristic categories to isolate shrub regrowth patterns. Six years after the fire, shrub cover in the Santa Ana wind driven site was substantially lower than in the other two sites. Such differences in shrub cover at the landscape scale may have resulted from different wind speed, direction, and humidity during the fire, coupled with terrain differences on wildfire behaviour and different rates of recovery associated primarily with moisture availability to plants. The information gathered from this study can help land managers assess shrub regrowth and possibility of vegetation type change after extreme fire events in southern California shrubland ecosystems.

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Rachels, Diane H.; Stow, Douglas A.; O'Leary, John F.; Johnson, Harry D.; Riggan, Philip J. 2016. Chaparral recovery following a major fire with variable burn conditions. International Journal of Remote Sensing. 37(16): 3836-3857.


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