Assessing the relationship between forest structure and fire severity on the north rim of the grand canyon

Valentijn Hoff, Eric Rowell, Casey Teske, Lloyd Queen, Tim Wallace

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    While operational fire severity products inform fire management decisions in Grand Canyon National Park (GRCA), managers have expressed the need for better quantification of the consequences of severity, specifically forest structure. In this study we computed metrics related to the forest structure from airborne laser scanning (ALS) data and investigated the influence that fires that burned in the decade previous had on forest structure on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. We found that fire severity best explains the occurrence of structure classes that include canopy cover, vertical fuel distribution, and surface roughness. In general we found that high fire severity resulted in structure types that exhibit lower canopy cover and higher surface roughness. Areas that burned more frequently with lower fire severity in general had a more closed canopy and a lower surface roughness, with less brush and less conifer regeneration. In a random forests modeling exercise to examine the relationship between severity and structure we found mean canopy height to be a powerful explanatory variable, but still proved less informative than the three-component structure classification. We show that fire severity not only impacts forest structure but also brings heterogeneity to vegetation types along the elevation gradient on the Kaibab plateau. This work provides managers with a unique dataset, usable in conjunction with vegetation, fuels and fire history data, to support management decisions at GRCA.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number10
    Pages (from-to)1-22
    Number of pages22
    JournalFire
    Volume2
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Mar 2019

    Keywords

    • Fire management
    • Fire severity
    • Forest structure
    • Grand Canyon National Park
    • Kaibab Plateau
    • LiDAR
    • Wildfire

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