Mapping burned areas and burn severity patterns in SW Australian eucalypt forest using remotely-sensed changes in leaf area index

Matthias Boer, Craig Macfarlane, Jaymie Norris, Rohan Sadler, J. Wallace, Pauline Grierson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Remote sensing is the most practical method available to managers of fire-prone forests for quantifying and mapping fire impacts. Differenced Normalised Burn Ratio (Delta NBR) is among the most widely used spectral indices for the mapping of burn severity but is difficult to interpret in terms of fire-related changes in key biophysical attributes and processes. We propose to quantify burn severity as a change in the leaf area index (Delta LAI) of a stand. LAI is a key biophysical attribute of forests. and is central to understanding their water and carbon cycles. Previous studies have suggested that changes in canopy LAI may be a major contributor to Delta NBR and to the composite burn index (CBI) that is frequently used in combination with the NBR to assess burn severity on the ground. We applied remotely-sensed Delta LAI to map burn severity in jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) forest in south-western Australia burnt during the January 2005 Perth Hills wildfires. Ground-based digital photography was used to measure LAI in typical stands representing the full range of canopy densities present in the study area as well as variation in the time since the last fire. Regression models for the prediction of LAI were developed using NBR, the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) or the Simple Ratio (SR) as the independent variable. All three LAI models had equally high coefficients of determination (R-2: 0.87) and small root mean squared errors (RIVISE: 0.27-0.28). Delta LAI was calculated as the difference between pre- and post-fire LAI. predicted using imagery from January 2004 and February 2005, respectively. The area affected by the January 2005 fire and the burn severity patterns within that area were mapped using Delta LAI and Delta NBR. Landscape patterns of burn severity obtained from differencing pre- and post-fire LAI were similar to those mapped by Delta NBR. We conclude that fire-affected areas and burn severity patterns in the northern jarrah forest can be objectively mapped using remotely-sensed changes in LAI, while offering the important advantage over NBR of being readily interpretable in the wider context of ecological forest management. (C) 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4358-4369
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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