Recent Forest Disturbance History in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Reconstructed using Remote Sensing and Management Record

Friday, 19 December 2014
Feng Zhao1, Chengquan Huang1 and Zhiliang Zhu2, (1)University of Maryland College Park, Geographical Sciences, College Park, MD, United States, (2)USGS, Reston, VA, United States
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), located in Central Rocky Mountains of United States, is of complex ecological and land management histories along with different land ownerships. What are effects of the different land management practices (such as those by national parks vs. national forests) on ecosystem disturbances and carbon balance? We present here the methods and results of a study on forest disturbance history over the GYE from 1984 to 2010 reconstructed from Landsat time series stacks and local management records. Annual forest fire, harvest and other disturbances were tracked and separated by integrating a model called Vegetation Change Tracker and the Support Vector Machine algorithm. Local management records were separated into training and validation data for the disturbance maps. Area statistics and rates of disturbances were quantified and compared across GYE land ownership over the multi-decade period and interpreted for implications of these changes for forest management and carbon analysis. Our results indicate that during the study interval (1984 - 2010), GYE National Parks (NPs) and Wilderness Area (WA) had higher percentages of area of forests disturbed compared to GYE National Forests (NF). Within the GYE NPs, over 45% of the forest lands were disturbed at least once during the study period, the majority (37%) was by wildfire. For GYE wilderness area, the total disturbance was 30% of forest with 19.4% by wildfire and 10.6% by other disturbances. In Bridger-Teton NF, 14.7% of forest was disturbed and 3.6%, 0.5% and 10.6% of forest were disturbed by fire, harvest and other disturbances, respectively. For Caribou-Targhee NF, 25% of total forest was disturbed during this time interval and 1.5%, 6.4% and 17.1% of forest were disturbed by fire, harvest and other disturbances, respectively.