Assessing spatial and temporal variations in surface soil moisture in fire-disturbed black spruce forests in Interior Alaska using spaceborne synthetic aperture radar imagery — Implications for post-fire tree recruitment

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Recent studies [Bourgeau-Chavez, L.L., Kasischke, E.S., Riordan, K., Brunzell, S.M., Nolan, M., Hyer, E.J., Slawski, J.J., Medvecz, M., Walters, T., and Ames, S. (in press). Remote monitoring of spatial and temporal surface soil moisture in fire disturbed boreal forest ecosystems with ERS SAR imagery. Int. J. Rem. Sens.] demonstrated that ERS SAR imagery can be used to estimate surface soil moisture in recently burned black spruce forests in interior Alaska. We used this relationship to analyze the intra- and inter-annual variations surface soil moisture in two burned black spruce forests in Alaska. The results of this study showed distinct seasonal and longer-term trends in soil moisture in the two sites, with the site that burned in 1994 having higher soil moisture than the site that burned in 1999. The differences in soil moisture between the sites were related to landscape-scale variations in soil drainage and seasonal permafrost thawing. Finally, we found that the 1999 site had dramatically lower levels of tree recruitment (both aspen and black spruce) than the 1994 site as a result of the lower soil moisture levels. These results show that the ERS SAR and similar systems can be used to monitor a site characteristic that is important to understanding changes in the ecosystem community structure that result from variations in climate and the fire regime in the boreal region.

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© 2006 Elsevier Inc. Publisher's version of record: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2006.10.020

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Remote Sensing of Environment