Long-Term Monitoring of Post-Fire Vegetation Recovery: A Case Study in Winnemucca District, Nevada




Dougherty, Christine

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The ability of vegetation to recover from a fire event occurs at different rates depending on environmental conditions and land management techniques. Immediately following a fire, short-term vegetation monitoring helps land managers plan for and apply appropriate land treatments. Long-term post-fire vegetation assessments are less common, but are also needed to understand the impact of management techniques on vegetation recovery over time. A challenge to long-term monitoring is that traditional field assessments can be resource intensive. The purpose of this study is to examine the ability of remote sensing based vegetation indices to capture annual and long-term vegetation recovery for three fire sites in the Winnemucca District of Nevada. The study uses Landsat Thematic Mapper imagery from 1985-2005 to calculate the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and a version of the Modified Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (MSAVI2) for the three fire sites. The results of this study suggest that annual differences in vegetation indices provide an indication of changing vegetation response, but on their own are insufficient to categorize whether this signifies a change in phenology or vegetation type. The study concludes seasonal intra-annual analysis is necessary as a first step to identifying the different stages of plant phenology before comparison of vegetation change can occur across years. The long-term trend analysis used in this study identified areas experiencing a long-term pattern of change after fourteen years, but not after twenty. Further studies would be required to confirm whether a long-term trend corresponds to a change in vegetation type.



Vegetation monitoring, Winnemucca, NDVI, Post-fire vegetation, MSAVI2