Analysing forest recovery after wildfire disturbance in Boreal Siberia using remotely sensed vegetation indices

Cuevas-González, Maria; Gerard, France; Balzter, Heiko; Riano, David. 2009 Analysing forest recovery after wildfire disturbance in Boreal Siberia using remotely sensed vegetation indices. Global Change Biology, 15 (3). 561-577.

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Wildfires have major effects on forest dynamics, succession and the carbon cycle in the boreal biome. They are a significant source of carbon emissions, and current observed changes in wildfire regimes due to changes in climate could affect the balance of the boreal carbon pool. A better understanding of post-wildfire vegetation dynamics in boreal forests will help predict the future role of boreal forests as a carbon sink or source. Time-series of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Normalized Difference Shortwave Infrared Index (NDSWIR) derived from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite were used to investigate whether characteristic temporal patterns exist for stands of different ages in the Siberian boreal forests and whether their post-wildfire dynamics are influenced by variables such as pre-wildfire vegetation cover. Two types of forest, evergreen needle-leaf (ENF) and deciduous needle-leaf (DNF) were studied by analysing a sample of 78 burned forest areas. In order to study a longer time frame a chronosequence of burned areas of different age was built by coupling information on location and age provided by a forest burned area database (from 1992 to 2003) to MODIS -NDVI and -NDSWIR time series acquired from 2001 to 2005. For each of the burned areas an adjacent unburned control plot representing the same forest type was selected, with the aim of separating inter-annual variations caused by climate from changes in NDVI and NDSWIR behaviour due to a wildfire. The results suggest that it takes more than 13 years for the temporal NDVI and NDSWIR signal to recover fully after wildfire. NDSWIR, which is associated to canopy moisture, needs a longer recovery period than NDVI, which is associated to vegetation greenness. The results also suggest that variability observed in post-wildfire NDVI and NDSWIR can be explained partially by the dominant forest type: whilst 13 years after a fire NDVI and NDSWIR are similar for ENF and DNF, the initial impact appears to be greater on the NDVI and NDSWIR of ENF, suggesting a faster recovery by ENF.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biogeochemistry > CC01B Land-surface Feedbacks in the Climate System > CC01.5 Datasets for land-surface science
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Harding (to July 2011)
ISSN: 1354-1013
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: The definitive version is available at
Additional Keywords: regeneration, boreal forest, Siberia, NDVI, wildfires, post-wildfire, MODIS
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Earth Sciences
Date made live: 23 Feb 2009 13:15 +0 (UTC)

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