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Daily MODIS data trends of hurricane-induced forest impact and early recovery

February 26, 2012

We studied the use of daily satellite data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors to assess wetland forest damage and recovery from Hurricane Katrina (29 August 2005 landfall). Processed MODIS daily vegetation index (VI) trends were consistent with previously determined impact and recovery patterns provided by the "snapshot" 25 m Landsat Thematic Mapper optical and RADARSAT-1 synthetic aperture radar satellite data. Phenological trends showed high 2004 and 2005 pre-hurricane temporal correspondence within bottomland hardwood forest communities, except during spring green-up, and temporal dissimilarity between these hardwoods and nearby cypress-tupelo swamp forests (Taxodium distichum [baldcypress] and Nyssa aquatica [water tupelo]). MODIS VI trend analyses established that one year after impact, cypress-tupelo and lightly impacted hardwood forests had recovered to near pre-hurricane conditions. In contrast, canopy recovery lagged in the moderately and severely damaged hardwood forests, possibly reflecting regeneration of pre-hurricane species and stand-level replacement by invasive trees.