Yellowstone in Transition: An Analysis of Wildfire Characteristics and Post Fire Regeneration in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Annalise Hauser ’19

Advisor: Rutherford Platt

In response to climate change, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) is expected to undergo changes in fire regimes due to rising temperatures and more frequent and severe droughts. The purpose of this study was to perform a long-term remote sensing analysis of the changes in fire characteristics and post-fire regeneration in the GYE. The fire characteristics were frequency, area, homogeneity, and severity. We used the Monitoring Trending in Burn Severity (MTBS) and the Fire History Polygons for Northern Rockies datasets to determine the changes in the fire characteristics over time. To examine the trends in post-fire recovery we calculated a Scaled Recovery Metric (SRM) for each fire in Google Earth Engine using Landsat imagery for a 5-year and a 10-year recovery period. We performed statistical analyses correlating the regeneration metrics to the previously calculated fire characteristics, average maximum daily temperature, minimum daily temperature, precipitation, forest coverage, elevation, and slope for each fire. We did not find statistically significant temporal correlations of fire characteristics, though we see increasing trends in frequency and average fire size. We found that in both recovery periods mean maximum daily temperature, mean RdNBR (severity), and the percent of burned area within the burn perimeter (homogeneity) were the most explanatory variables. The models for 5-year and 10-year recovery also included mean precipitation and percentage of forest within the fire perimeter respectively. Our results indicate that there has been a shift in select fire characteristics over the last 30 years and that recovery could be impacted by climate change.

Conference Poster Presentation: A. Hauser & R.V. Platt. Yellowstone in Transition: An Analysis of Wildfire Characteristics and Post Fire Regeneration in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Association of American Geographers, Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019

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