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Wildfire Resilience Supported with Lidar

image Wildfire Resilience Supported with Lidar - Photo Credit NV5 Geospatial
Wildfire Resilience Supported with Lidar - Photo Credit NV5 Geospatial

Building the perfect campfire requires the right mix of ingredients: plenty of kindling, a spark to ignite it, and large, dry logs to keep the fire burning strong. Unfortunately, fire suppression strategies adopted long ago—combined more recently with severe droughts and climate change—have created this same mixture across many of the dry forests of the western United States, such as those in Yosemite National Park and elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada. Over the past several years, these conditions have led to disastrous, headline-grabbing fires that threaten human communities, ecosystems, and the very survival of our forests. Wildfire resilience is being studied in places like the Sierra Nevada as climate change is making the conditions worse in the western U.S.

From an article by Van R. Kane, et al in EOS.

Despite their destructive power, fires are natural phenomena in many forests, where they are essential to the biomes’ long-term health. Decades of field-based studies have built the field of fire ecology and have informed nuanced views of fire as both a threat and a restorative process. However, the expense of such fieldwork has meant that relatively small portions of forests—and their relation to fire—have been studied in detail. Even extensive field studies involving hundreds of forest plots may cumulatively measure conditions over only dozens to hundreds of hectares, yet because of the limited data available, these samples are taken to represent highly varied conditions over millions of hectares.

Today, with help from remote sensing technologies, fire ecologists are more often examining continuous forest landscapes to understand their conditions before and after fires. In particular, they are using high-resolution laser imaging measurements gathered by lidar instruments aboard planes to map conditions from the treetops to the ground. Lidar allows us, for the first time, to quantify forest structure directly—that is, to determine tree heights, canopy densities, and the distribution of branches and leaves throughout the canopy—a feat previously possible only by painstaking field measurements. Lidar-based studies are beginning to enrich our understanding of wildfires historically, and they are providing forest managers with new tools to use in planning forest restorations and thus to improve forests’ resilience to future fires.

For the complete article on wildfire resilience CLICK HERE.

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