Post-Fire Vegetation Recovery: Impacts of Restoration and Environment

Project Number: 
Project Duration: 
24 months
October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2010
Institution of Principle Investigator while on this project: 
University of Arizona

Investigators (most current known information)

Assistant Research Scientist, Arizona Remote Sensing Center, The University of Arizona, Office of Arid Lands, 1955 E. 6th St., Suite 205D, Tucson AZ 85719
TEL: +1-520-626-0058, FAX: +1-520-621-3816, Email:
Research Ecologist & Station Leader, USGS Jemez Mountains Field Station, 15 Entrance Rd., Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos NM 87544
TEL: +1-505-672-3861, ext. 541, FAX: +1-505-672-9607, Email:
Profesora Titular Universidad (Ecologia), Dpto. Ecologia, Universidad de Alicante, Apdo. Correos, 99, Alicante 03080, SPAIN
TEL: +34-96-590-3400 x3391, FAX: +34-96-590-3625, Email:
Research Scientist, University of Arizona, Office of Arid Lands Studies, 1955 E. Sixth St., Tucson AZ 85719
TEL: +1-520-621-3694, FAX: +1-520-621-3816, Email:
Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel Campus, Haifa 31905, ISRAEL
Project Leader (Collaborator), USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Station, 2500 S. Pine Knoll Dr., Flagstaff AZ 86001
Assistant Professor & Geospatial Extension Specialist, Office of Arid Lands Studies, The University of Arizona, UA/NASA Space Grant Program, 1955 E 6th St., Tucson AZ 85719
TEL: +1-520-626-8063, FAX: +1-520-621-3816, Email:
Lecturer, Department of Geography & Environmental Studies, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel Campus, Room 8006, Haifa 31905, ISRAEL
TEL: +972-4-824-9617, FAX: +972-4-824-9605, Email:

Proposal Abstract

Current climate variability and change are projected to result in more drought stress and wildfire disturbance events that will impact dryland ecosystem functioning and processes. This can result in the potential for considerable soil erosion, and changes in biodiversity, water supplies, carbon dynamics and land cover. Changing climate conditions, combined with a buildup of forest fuel loads (e.g., the Southwestern USA) has resulted in an increasing number of large and severe wildfires (Westerling, 2006). However, the effect of restoration treatments (e.g., prescribed fires, thinning, or combinations) on modifying the behavior and effects of wildfires has rarely been evaluated synoptically. The growing demand for monitoring tools to assess post-fire vegetation and dryland recovery and restoration success is motivating the rapid development of new approaches and technologies. Associated investments make up an ever-growing share of natural resource management expenditure. However, long term assessments of post-wildfire vegetation recovery in concert with restoration projects are not common. There is a need for a common methodology for evaluating the effects of environmental conditions on post-wildfire recovery and restoration projects at the stand and landscape scales. This methodology needs to be appropriate to the specific characteristics of any particular wildfire event and restoration effort, yet also allowing for comparative analyses between different drylands. The research described in this proposal will explore multi-country post-fire vegetation recovery measures (response variables), as well as post-fire recovery in response to environmental variables (causal or explanatory variables like climate, soil characteristics, typography/insolation, and pre-fire conditions) and evaluate the impact of site specific restoration treatments. The primary goals of this research are to: (1) develop a consistent and widely applicable methodology for examining the effect of environmental conditions and dryland restoration projects on variation in post-wildfire recovery (2) test this methodology using a wide range of wildfire-affected sites and existing restoration projects in a variety of dryland environments in the USA, Israel, and Spain, and (3) compare and contrast environmental factors controlling post-fire vegetation recovery in the test areas. A particularly compelling and innovative element of the proposal research is the development of tools for cost-effective remote-sensing based monitoring of post-wildfire vegetation recovery and restoration actions, with the possibility to facilitate technology transfer for enhanced sustainable watershed management. Specifically, the proposed research will result in a better understanding of the impact of environmental conditions on restoration effects and post-wildfire recovery in drylands. This research approach will also measure the recovery rate of post-wildfire vegetation structural and functional dynamics at stand, ecosystem and landscape scales. Functional attributes will be derived from LANDSAT (e.g., 30m resolution Normalized Burn Ration/burn severity and derived structural parameters) and MODIS satellite vegetation index time series data (250m: 10 years, 2000-2009) in combination with topography, climate and soils data (e.g., organic carbon, infiltration capacity, aggregate's stability, rock fragments at the surface, texture, soil depth, water holding capacity) and ground observations. Site characterization of environmental condition and technical descriptions of restoration treatments will be major parts of this approach. The analysis methods include a multivariate classification and regression tree (CART) modeling approach and an evaluation of model residuals. This analysis scheme is flexible in that it will allow for a tractable and adaptive approach to understanding vegetation recovery patterns and their governing factors over time and permit comparison between different technical approaches at different sites. Scientists, land managers, and decision makers involved in forest and watershed management will be able to use the resulting products to complement their toolbox for analyzing wildfire vegetation recovery and restoration actions and evaluating associated goods and services.


No outcomes reported


Support for this project came from the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service