Synergistic use of spaceborne lidar and optical imagery for assessing forest disturbance: an Alaska case study
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Scott J. Goetz; Miguel Sun; Alessandro Baccini; Pieter S. A. Beck
Publication Year: 2010

Cataloging Information

  • age classes
  • boreal forests
  • cover
  • cover type
  • deciduous forests
  • disturbance
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • energy
  • fire case histories
  • fire frequency
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • fire size
  • forest management
  • grasslands
  • mosaic
  • overstory
  • population density
  • post fire recovery
  • remote sensing
  • size classes
  • snags
  • succession
  • trees
  • vegetation surveys
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: May 16, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 48385
Tall Timbers Record Number: 24500
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Fire File
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Fire disturbance at high latitudes modifies a broad range of ecosystem properties and processes, thus it is important to monitor the response of vegetation to fire disturbance. This monitoring effort can be aided by lidar remote sensing, which captures information on vegetation structure, particularly canopy height metrics. We used lidar data acquired from the Geoscience Laser Altimetry System (GLAS) on ICESAT to derive canopy information for a wide range of burned areas across Alaska. The GLAS data aided our analysis of postfire disturbance and vegetation recovery by allowing us to derive returned energy height metrics within burned area perimeters. The analysis was augmented with MODIS reflectance data sets, which were used to stratify vegetation cover into cover type and density. We also made use of Landsat burn severity maps to further stratify the lidar metrics. Results indicate that canopy height decreases following fire, as expected, but height was not a good overall indicator for fire disturbance because many location with the burned area perimeters either did not actually burn or experienced different levels of burn severity, typically leaving many standing trees or snags even after intensive burning. Because vegetation recovery following fire is differentially affected by burn severity, significantly greater height growth was documented in more severely burned areas due to a greater proportion of deciduous vegetation regrowth. When these factors were considered, GLAS height metrics were useful for documenting properties of regrowth in burned areas, thereby facilitating monitoring and mapping efforts following fire disturbance. A new satellite lidar sensor designed for vegetation studies would thus prove valuable information for improving ecosystem models that incorporated disturbance and recovery. © 2010 by the American Geophysical Union.

Online Link(s):
Goetz, S. J., M. Sun, A. Baccini, and P. S. A. Beck. 2010. Synergistic use of spaceborne lidar and optical imagery for assessing forest disturbance: an Alaska case study. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, v. 115, p. G00E07-G00E14. 10.1029/2008.