International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Mapping prescribed fire severity in south-east Australian eucalypt forests using modelling and satellite imagery: a case study

John Loschiavo A C , Brett Cirulis A , Yingxin Zuo B , Bronwyn A. Hradsky A and Julian Di Stefano A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, University of Melbourne, 4 Water Street, Creswick, Vic. 3363, Australia.

B Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, 8 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne, Vic. 3002, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: loschiavo.john@gmail.com

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(6) 491-497 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF16167
Submitted: 3 September 2016  Accepted: 30 March 2017   Published: 6 June 2017

Abstract

Accurate fire severity maps are fundamental to the management of flammable landscapes. Severity mapping methods have been developed and tested for wildfire, but need further refinement for prescribed fire. We evaluated the accuracy of two severity mapping methods for a low-intensity, patchy prescribed fire in a south-eastern Australian eucalypt forest: (1) the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) derived from RapidEye satellite imagery, and (2) PHOENIX RapidFire, a fire-spread simulation model. We used each method to generate a fire severity map (four-category: unburnt, low, moderate and severe), and then validated the maps against field-based data. We used error matrices and the Kappa statistic to assess mapping accuracy. Overall, the satellite-based map was more accurate (75%; Kappa ±95% confidence interval 0.54 ± 0.06) than the modelled map (67%; Kappa 0.40 ± 0.06). Both methods overestimated the area of unburnt forest; however, the satellite-based map better represented moderately burnt areas. Satellite- and model-based methods both provide viable approaches for mapping prescribed fire severity, but refinements could further improve map accuracy. Appropriate severity mapping methods are essential given the increasing use of prescribed fire as a forest management tool.

Additional keywords: biodiversity, fire spread simulation model, PHOENIX, RapidEye, remote sensing.


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