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Using Landsat data to assess fire and burn severity in the North American boreal forest region: an overview and summary of results


Nancy H.F. French
Eric S. Kasischke
Ronald J. Hall
Karen A. Murphy
David L. Verbyla
Elizabeth E. Hoy
Jennifer L. Allen



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Pacific Northwest Research Station


International Journal of Wildland Fire. 17: 443-462


There has been considerable interest in the recent literature regarding the assessment of post-fire effects on forested areas within the North American boreal forest. Assessing the physical and ecological effects of fire in boreal forests has far-reaching implications for a variety of ecosystem processes -- such as post-fire forest succession -- and land management decisions. The present paper reviews past assessments and the studies presented in this special issue that have largely been based on the Composite Burn Index and differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (dNBR). Results from relating and mapping fire/burn severity within the boreal region have been variable, and are likely attributed, in part, to the wide variability in vegetation and terrain conditions that are characteristic of the region. Satellite remote sensing of post-fire effects alone without proper field calibration should be avoided. A sampling approach combining field and image values of burn condition is necessary for successful mapping of fire/burn severity. Satellite-based assessments of fire/burn severity, and in particular dNBR and related indices, need to be used judiciously and assessed for appropriateness based on the users' need. Issues unique to high latitudes also need to be considered when using satellite-derived information in the boreal forest region.


French, Nancy H.F.; Kasischke, Eric S.; Hall, Ronald J.; Murphy, Karen A.; Verbyla, David L.; Hoy, Elizabeth E.; Allen, Jennifer L. 2008. Using Landsat data to assess fire and burn severity in the North American boreal forest region: an overview and summary of results. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 17: 443-462.


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