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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Extrapolating forest canopy fuel properties in the California Rim fire by combining airborne LiDAR and landsat OLI data

  • Author(s): García, M
  • Saatchi, S
  • Casas, A
  • Koltunov, A
  • Ustin, SL
  • Ramirez, C
  • Balzter, H
  • et al.

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© 2017 by the authors. Accurate, spatially explicit information about forest canopy fuel properties is essential for ecosystem management strategies for reducing the severity of forest fires. Airborne LiDAR technology has demonstrated its ability to accurately map canopy fuels. However, its geographical and temporal coverage is limited, thus making it difficult to characterize fuel properties over large regions before catastrophic events occur. This study presents a two-step methodology for integrating post-fire airborne LiDAR and pre-fire Landsat OLI (Operational Land Imager) data to estimate important pre-fire canopy fuel properties for crown fire spread, namely canopy fuel load (CFL), canopy cover (CC), and canopy bulk density (CBD). This study focused on a fire prone area affected by the large 2013 Rim fire in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, USA. First, LiDAR data was used to estimate CFL, CC, and CBD across an unburned 2 km buffer with similar structural characteristics to the burned area. Second, the LiDAR-based canopy fuel properties were extrapolated over the whole area using Landsat OLI data, which yielded an R2 of 0.8, 0.79, and 0.64 and RMSE of 3.76 Mg· ha-1, 0.09, and 0.02 kg·m-3 for CFL, CC, and CBD, respectively. The uncertainty of the estimates was estimated for each pixel using a bootstrapping approach, and the 95% confidence intervals are reported. The proposed methodology provides a detailed spatial estimation of forest canopy fuel properties along with their uncertainty that can be readily integrated into fire behavior and fire effects models. The methodology could be also integrated into the LANDFIRE program to improve the information on canopy fuels.

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