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Phenology patterns indicate recovery trajectories of ponderosa pine forests after high-severity fires

November 26, 2019

Post-fire recovery trajectories in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Laws.) forests of the US Southwest are increasingly shifting away from pre-burn vegetation communities. This study investigated whether phenological metrics derived from a multi-decade remotely sensed imagery time-series could differentiate among grass, evergreen shrub, deciduous, or conifer-dominated replacement pathways. We focused on 10 fires that burned ponderosa pine forests in Arizona and New Mexico, USA before the year 2000. A total of 29 sites with discernable post-fire recovery signals were selected within high-severity burn areas. At each site, we used Google Earth Engine to derive time-series of normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) signals from Landsat Thematic Mapper, Enhanced Thematic Mapper+, and Operational Line Imager data from 1984 to 2017. We aggregated values to 8- and 16-day intervals, fit Savitzy-Golay filters to each sequence, and extracted annual phenology metrics of amplitude, base value, peak value, and timing of peak value in the Timesat analysis package. Results show that relative to post-fire conditions, pre-burn ponderosa pine forests exhibit significantly lower mean NDVI amplitude (0.14 vs. 0.21), higher mean base NDVI (0.47 vs. 0.22), higher mean peak NDVI (0.60 vs. 0.43), and later mean peak NDVI (day of year 277 vs. 237). Vegetation succession exhibits distinct phenometric characteristics as early as year five (amplitude) and as late as year 20 (timing of peak NDVI). This study confirms the feasibility of leveraging phenology metrics derived from long-term imagery time series to identify and monitor ecological outcomes. This information may be of benefit to land resource managers who seek indicators of future landscape composition to inform management strategies.

Publication Year 2019
Title Phenology patterns indicate recovery trajectories of ponderosa pine forests after high-severity fires
DOI 10.3390/rs11232782
Authors Jessica J. Walker, Christopher E. Soulard
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Remote Sensing
Index ID 70206894
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Geographic Science Center