Quantifying forest Recovery Rates and Successional Trajectories Following Extreme Fires
Mid-elevation forests in the US Northern Rockies have been identified to be particularly vulnerable to climate change manifested in a lower snow pack, earlier snow melt and prolonged fire season. Over the past decade larger and more severe fires have been observed in this region. Several studies have characterized the long-term response following wildfire exclusively via modeling or satellite remote sensing, without field reconnaissance. Although spectral reflectance obtained via satellite remote sensing indicate that ecosystems have returned to pre-fire conditions, species composition and other ecological traits may not have returned to a pre-fire state. This research intends to compare ecosystem trajectories measured via satellite remote sensing (Landsat NDVI and MODIS NPP) and field measurements (spectral reflectance, biomass accumulation,
species composition) following fires that burned within the last 0-50 years. A second objective is to assess the effect of burn severity on ecosystem recovery and productivity. Understanding short- and long-term ecosystem recovery pathways is critical to inform appropriate societal and policy responses.