Main content area

Quantifying the fire regime distributions for severity in Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Thode, Andrea E., van Wagtendonk, Jan W., Miller, Jay D., Quinn, James F.
International journal of wildland fire 2011 v.20 no.2 pp. 223-239
Landsat, burning, fire regime, fire severity, fires, landscapes, managers, montane forests, national parks, remote sensing, researchers, shrubs, subalpine forests, woodlands, California, Sierra Nevada region (California)
This paper quantifies current fire severity distributions for 19 different fire-regime types in Yosemite National Park, California, USA. Landsat Thematic Mapper remote sensing data are used to map burn severity for 99 fires (cumulatively over 97000ha) that burned in Yosemite over a 20-year period. These maps are used to quantify the frequency distributions of fire severity by fire-regime type. A classification is created for the resultant distributions and they are discussed within the context of four vegetation zones: the foothill shrub and woodland zone; the lower montane forest zone; the upper montane forest zone and the subalpine forest zone. The severity distributions can form a building block from which to discuss current fire regimes across the Sierra Nevada in California. This work establishes a framework for comparing the effects of current fires on our landscapes with our notions of how fires historically burned, and how current fire severity distributions differ from our desired future conditions. As this process is refined, a new set of information will be available to researchers and land managers to help understand how fire regimes have changed from the past and how we might attempt to manage them in the future.