A Comprehensive Study of Forest Health and Structure Following the West Fork Fire Complex in Southwest Colorado through Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR)
KeywordsNormalized Difference of Vegetation Index (NDVI)
Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR)
AdvisorSanchez Trigueros, Fernando
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractIn June 2013, southwest Colorado faced one of the largest wildfires in state history, the West Fork Fire Complex. Being composed of three separate fires (Papoose, West Fork, and Windy Pass), the wildfire burned approximately 110,000 acres within the Rio Grande National Forest. This project aims to understand how the West Fork Fire affected forest structure and recovery, and measures these impacts using Landsat 8 imagery to analyze NDVI and NBR. NDVI was calculated to understand impacts to vegetation, while NBR was calculated to understand overall burn severities. Specific measurements of NDVI and NBR values were collected across 30 designated control points within each set of imagery. NDVI results showed a 63% decrease in control point values from June to August 2013, indicating immediate impacts to forest structure. The average values fell from greater than 0.20 to less than 0.10, classifying these once sparsely covered lands into areas of barren rock or sand. NBR values saw a decrease of 309% over the same period. ΔNBR values averaged 0.33 which indicated moderate to low severity burns throughout the landscape while ΔNDVI averaged 0.12. NDVI found a 123% increase in July 2016 compared with the 2014 data, and NBR detected a 114% increase. Both analyses presented higher values in 2016 compared with their 2013 data, showing evidence of forest recovery. The results indicated the West Fork Complex had a moderate to low impact. Additionally, results demonstrated how NDVI and NBR helped to classify the severity of wildfires, vegetation health, and how these methods can be reproduced.