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Comparing Remote Sensing and Field-Based Approaches to Estimate Ladder Fuels and Predict Wildfire Burn Severity

A comparative study on remote sensing and field-based approaches to estimate ladder fuel density. Can densities from different approaches predict wildfire burn severity?

Technical description

There is an urgent need in the western United States to reduce wildfire hazard and restore wildfire’s historic role as a beneficial ecological process. Surface fuels, often < 1 m in height and mostly horizontal in orientation, carry fire across the ground when there is continuity of litter, slash, herbaceous vegetation, shrubs, small conifers, and downed woody material. Ladder fuels, which are live and dead vegetation that bridge the gap between the surface and the canopy, can provide a conduit for a low-severity surface fire to become a high-severity canopy fire. Management targeted at reducing surface and ladder fuels can effectively mitigate wildfire intensity and burn severity. Due to the scale of the area that requires treatment, targeted management must be informed by mapping the spatial distribution of ladder fuels to help prevent high-severity fires.

Comparing Remote Sensing and Field-Based Approaches to Estimate Ladder Fuels and Predict Wildfire Burn Severity

PROJECT PAGE:

Resource Type: Ecosystems, Plants
Threats/Stressors: Climate Change, Wildfire Risk/Fuel Loads
Conservation Action: Forest Stand Improvement, Species Recovery