Share This Article:

Landscape Patterns of Vegetation Canopy Regrowth Following Wildfires in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California

Full-Text HTML XML Download Download as PDF (Size:1133KB) PP. 723-732
DOI: 10.4236/ojf.2015.57064    5,025 Downloads   5,478 Views   Citations


Rapid recovery of pioneer shrub and forest patch cover can reduce soil erosion, nutrient runoff and degradation of stream habitats, and promote small mammal and avian biodiversity following stand-replacing wildfires. Landsat imagery from the past 25+ years was analyzed to understand patterns and rates of vegetation recovery, focusing on high burn severity (HBS) patches, within wildfire areas dating from the late 1940s in the Sierra-Nevada region of California. Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) levels indicative of recovered woody cover within HBS areas were analyzed starting in 1985 to quantify regrowth of patch dynamics. Analysis of landscape metrics showed that the percentage of total HBS area comprised by the largest patch of recovered woody cover was relatively small in all fires that occurred since 1995, but increased rapidly with time since fire. Patch complexity of recovered woody cover decreased notably after more than 50 years of regrowth, but was not readily associated with time for fires that occurred since the mid 1990s. Patch complexity of dense woody cover was consistently high in fires after 1995 and increased with the elevation of HBS areas. The aggregation level of patches with recovery of woody cover increased steadily with time since fire. The study approach using satellite remote sensing can be expanded to assess the consequences of stand-replacing wildfires in all forests of the region.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Potter, C. (2015) Landscape Patterns of Vegetation Canopy Regrowth Following Wildfires in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Open Journal of Forestry, 5, 723-732. doi: 10.4236/ojf.2015.57064.


[1] Aha, N., Boorman, M., Leidman, S., & Perry, S. (2014). The Effect of Sediment Deposition on Sierra Riverine Ecosystems Following High-Intensity Fires (13 p). Davis, CA: Center for Watershed Sciences, University of California.
[2] Avery, T. E., & Berlin, G. L. (1992). Fundamentals of Remote Sensing and Airphoto Interpretation (472 p). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
[3] Board of Review Report (1948). Rancheria Mountain Fire, Yosemite National Park, 9-21 September 1948, 1-3.
[4] Casady, G. M., & Marsh, S. E. (2010). Broad-Scale Environmental Conditions Responsible for Post-Fire Vegetation Dynamics. Remote Sensing, 2, 2643-2664.
[5] Chander, G., Markham, B., & Helder, D. (2009). Summary of Current Radiometric Calibration Coefficients for Landsat MSS, TM, ETM+, and EO-1 ALI Sensors, Remote Sensing of the Environment, 113, 893-903.
[6] Collins, B. M., & Roller, G. B. (2013). Early Forest Dynamics in Stand-Replacing Fire Patches in the Northern Sierra Nevada, California, USA. Landscape Ecol., 28, 1801-1813.
[7] Collins, J. B., & Woodcock, C. E. (1996). An Assessment of Several Linear Change Detection Techniques for Mapping Forest Mortality Using Multitemporal Landsat TM Data. Remote Sensing of Environment, 56, 66-77.
[8] Conard, S. G., & Radosevich, S. R. (1982). Post-Fire Succession in White Fir (Abies Concolor) Vegetation of the Northern Sierra Nevada. Madrono, 29, 42-56.
[9] Cuevas-Gonzalez, M., Gerard, F., Balzter, H., & Riano, D. (2009). Analysing Forest Recovery after Wildfire Disturbance in Boreal Siberia Using Remotely Sensed Vegetation Indices. Global Change Biology, 15, 561-577.
doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2008.01784.
[10] Eidenshenk, J., Schwind, B., Brewer, K., Zhu, Z., Quayle, B., & Howard, S. (2007). A Project for Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity. Fire Ecology, 3, 3-21.
[11] Epting, J., & Verbyla, D. L. (2005). Landscape Level Interactions of Pre-Fire Vegetation, Burn Severity, and Post-Fire Vegetation over a 16-Year Period in Interior Alaska. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 35, 1367-1377.
[12] Fischer, L., Rosenberg, M., Mahon, L., Liu, Z., Maurizi, B., Longmire, P., & Shupe, S. (2004). Monitoring Land Cover Changes in California, a USFS and CDF Cooperative Program, Northern Sierra Project Area—Cycle II. Sacramento, CA: State of California, Resources Agency, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
[13] Fontaine, J. B., & Kennedy, P. L. (2012). Meta-Analysis of Avian and Small-Mammal Response to Fire Severity and Fire Surrogate Treatments in U.S. Fire-Prone Forests. Ecological Applications, 22, 1547-1561.
[14] Franks, S., Masek, J. G., & Turner, M. G. (2013). Monitoring Forest Regrowth Following Large Scale Fire Using Satellite Data—A Case Study of Yellowstone National Park, USA. European Journal of Remote Sensing, 46, 561-569.
[15] Goforth, B. R., & Minnich, R.A. (2008). Densification, Stand-Replacement Wildfire, and Extirpation of Mixed Conifer Forest in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Southern California. Forest Ecology and Management, 256, 36-45.
[16] Kane, V. R., North, M. P., Lutz, J. A., Churchill, D. J., Roberts, S. L., Smith, D. F., McGaughey, R. J., Kane, J. T., & Brooks, M. L. (2013). Assessing Fire Effects on Forest Spatial Structure Using a Fusion of Landsat and Airborne LiDAR Data in Yosemite National Park. Remote Sensing of Environment, 151, 89-101.
[17] Keitt, T. H., Urban, D. L., & Milne, B. T. (1997). Detecting Critical Scales in Fragmented Landscapes. Conservation Ecology, 1, 4.
[18] Key, C. H., & Benson, N. C. (2006). Landscape Assessment: Ground Measure of Severity, the Composite Burn Index; and Remote Sensing of Severity, the Normalized Burn Ratio. In D. C. Lutes, R. E. Keane, J. F. Caratti, C. H. Key, N. C. Benson, S. Sutherland, & L. J. Gangi (Eds.), FIREMON: Fire Effects Monitoring and Inventory System. Ogden, UT: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Gen. Tech. Rep.
[19] Lentile, L., Holden, A., Smith, A., Falkowski, M., Hudak, A., Morgan, P. et al. (2006). Remote Sensing Techniques to Assess Active Fire Characteristics and Post-Fire Effects. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 15, 319-345.
[20] Li, S., & Potter, C. (2012). Vegetation Regrowth Trends in Post Forest Fire Ecosystems across North America from 2000 to 2010. Natural Science, 4, 755-770.
[21] Lutz, J. A., van Wagtendonk, J. W., & Franklin, J. F. (2009) Twentieth-Century Decline of Large-Diameter Trees in Yosemite National Park, California, USA. Forest Ecology and Management, 257, 2296-2307.
[22] McGarigal, K., Cushman, S. A., Neel, M. C., & Ene, E. (2002). FRAGSTATS: Spatial Pattern Analysis Program for Categorical Maps. Amherst: University of Massachusetts.
[23] Miller, J. D., & Safford, H. (2012). Trends in Wildfire Severity: 1984 to 2010 in the Sierra Nevada, Modoc Plateau, and Southern Cascades, California, USA. Fire Ecology, 8, 41-57.
[24] Miller, J. D., & Yool, S. R. (2002). Mapping Forest Post-Fire Canopy consumption in Several Overstory Types Using Multi-Temporal Landsat TM and ETM Data. Remote Sensing of Environment, 82, 481-496.
[25] Miller, J. D., Knapp, E. E., Key, C. H., Skinner, C. N., Isbell, C. J., Creasy, R. M., & Sherlock, J. W. (2009). Calibration and Validation of the Relative Differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (RdNBR) to Three Measures of Fire Severity in the Sierra Nevada and Klamath Mountains, California, USA. Remote Sensing of Environment, 113, 645-656.
[26] Nagel, T.A., & Taylor, A. H. (2005). Fire and Persistence of Montane Chaparral in Mixed Conifer Forest Landscapes in the Northern Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe Basin, California, USA. Torrey Botanical Society, 132, 442-457.[442:FAPOMC]2.0.CO;2
[27] National Park Service (NPS) (1949). Fire Control Plan. Yosemite National Park Archives.
[28] National Park Service (NPS) (2009). Yosemite National Park Annual Fire Management Plan (pp. 74). Yosemite National Park, CA: Department of the Interior.
[29] Potter, C. S. (2014). Ten Years of Forest Cover Change in the Sierra Nevada Detected Using Landsat Satellite Image Analysis. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 35, 7136-7153.
[30] Potter, C., Li, S., Huang, S., & Crabtree, R. L. (2012). Analysis of Sapling Density Regeneration in Yellowstone National Park with Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Data. Remote Sensing of Environment, 121, 61-68.
[31] Roberts, S. L., Kelt, D. A., van Wagtendonk, J. W., Miles, A. K., & Meyer, M. D. (2015) Effects of Fire on Small Mammal Communities in Frequent-Fire Forests in California. Journal of Mammalogy, 96, 107-119.
[32] Rogan, J., & Franklin, J. (2001). Mapping Wildfire Burn Severity in Southern California Forests and Shrublands Using Enhanced Thematic Mapper Imagery. Geocarto International, 16, 89-99.
[33] Rogan, J., Miller, J., Stow, D. A., Franklin, J., Levien, L., & Fischer, C. (2003). Land-Cover Change Monitoring with Classification Trees Using Landsat TM and Ancillary Data. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 69, 793-804.
[34] Rundel, P. W., Parsons, D. J., & Gordon, D. T. (1977). Montane and Subalpine Vegetation of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Ranges. In M. G. Barbour, & J. Major (Eds.), Terrestrial Vegetation of California (pp. 559-599). New York: Wiley.
[35] Russell, W. H., McBride, J. R., & Rowntree, R., (1998). Revegetation after Four Stand-Replacing Fires in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Madrono, 45, 40-46.
[36] Safford, H. D., van de Water, K., & Schmidt, D. (2011). California Fire Return Interval Departure (FRID) Map, 2010 Version. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region and the Nature Conservancy-California.
[37] Syfert, M., Rudy, J., Anderson, L., Cleve, C., Jenkins, J., Skiles, J. W., & Schmidt, C. (2006) Post-Fire Regeneration Assessment in Yosemite National Park. ASPRS Annual Conference Reno (p. 9), Nevada, 1-5 May 2006.
[38] Tinker, D. B., Romme, W. H., & Despain, D. G. (2003) Historic Range of Variability in Landscape Structure in Subalpine Forests of the Greater Yellowstone Area, USA. Landscape Ecology, 18, 427-439.
[39] Trujillo, E., Molotch, N. P., Goulden, M. L., Kelly, A. E., & Bales, R. C. (2012). Elevation-Dependent Influence of Snow Accumulation. Nature Geoscience, 5, 705-709.
[40] USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (2006). Land Resource Regions and Major Land Resource Areas (MRLAs) of the United States, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Basin. U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbook 296.
[41] Van de Water, K., & Safford, H. D. (2011). A Summary of Fire Frequency Estimates for California Vegetation before Euro-American Settlement. Fire Ecology, 7, 26-58.
[42] van Mantgem, P. J., & Schwilk, D. W. (2009). Negligible Influence of Spatial Autocorrelation in the Assessment of Fire Effects in a Mixed Conifer forest. Fire Ecology, 5, 116-125.
[43] van Wagtendonk, J. W., & Lutz, J. A. (2007). Fire Regime Attributes of Wildland Fires in Yosemite National Park. Fire Ecology, 3, 34-52.
[44] van Wagtendonk, J. W., & Root, R. R. (2003). The Use of Multi-Temporal Landsat Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) Data for Mapping Fuel Models in Yosemite National Park, USA. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 24, 1639-1651.

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2018 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.