Gaps in Data and Modeling Tools for Understanding Fire and Fire Effects in Tundra Ecosystems

Document Type

Conference Paper/Presentation

Publication Date



As the ecosystem science community learns more about tundra ecosystems and disturbance in tundra, a review of base data sets and ecological field data for the region shows there are many gaps that need to be filled. In this paper we will review efforts to improve our knowledge of the occurrence and impacts of fire in the North American tundra region completed under a NASA Terrestrial Ecology grant. Our main source of information is remote sensing data from satellite sensors and ecological data from past and recent field data collections by our team, collaborators, and others. Past fire occurrence is not well known for this region compared with other North American biomes. In this presentation we review an effort to use a semi-automated detection algorithm to identify past fire occurrence using the Landsat TM/ETM+ archives, pointing out some of the still-unaddressed issues for a full understanding of fire regime for the region. For this task, fires in Landsat scenes were mapped using the Random Forest classifier (Breiman 2001) to automatically detect potential burn scars. Random Forests is an ensemble classifier that employs machine learning to build a large collection of decision trees that are grown from a random selection of user supplied training data. A pixel's classification is then determined by which class receives the most 'votes' from each tree. We also review the use fire location records and existing modeling methods to quantify emissions from these fires. Based on existing maps of vegetation fuels, we used the approach developed for the Wildland Fire Emissions Information System (WFEIS; French et al. 2011) to estimate emissions across the tundra region. WFEIS employs the Consume model (http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/fera/research/smoke/consume/index.shtml) to estimate emissions by applying empirically developed relationships between fuels, fire conditions (weather-based fire indexes), and emissions. Here again, we will review the gaps in data and modeling capability for accurate estimation of fire emissions in this region. Initial evaluation of Landsat for tundra fire characterization (Loboda et al. 2013) and successful use of the rich archive of Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery for many fire-disturbed sites in the region will be additional topics covered in this poster presentation. References: Breiman, L. 2001. Random forests. Machine Learning, 45:5-32. French, N.H.F., W.J. de Groot, L.K. Jenkins, B.. Rogers, et al. 2011. Model comparisons for estimating carbon emissions from North American wildland fire. J. Geophys. Res. 116:G00K05, doi:10.1029/2010JG001469. Loboda, T L, N H F French, C. Hight-Harf, L. Jenkins, M.E. Miller. 2013. Mapping fire extent and burn severity in Alaskan tussock tundra: An analysis of the spectral response of tundra vegetation to wildland fire. Remote Sens. Enviro. 134:194-209.

Publisher's Statement

© 2013 American Geophysical Union.

Publication Title

AGU Fall Meeting 2013