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Enhancing Pre- and Post-Wildfire Vegetation Type Characterization Using NASA Earth Observations

Increasing wildfire frequency has emphasized the importance of post-wildfire recovery efforts in southern Idaho's sagebrush-steppe ecosystem. The changing fire regime favors annual invasive grass species while hindering native grasses and sagebrush habitat regeneration, causing a positive feedback cycle of invasive plants. Due, in part, to this undesirable process the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem is one of the most endangered in the US. In this project, the Idaho NASA DEVELOP team partnered with the Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and the US Department of Agriculture to characterize ecosystem recovery following the 2006 Crystal wildfire. Vegetation recovery following the Crystal fire (2006) was observed from 2001 to 2016 using NASA Earth observations Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM), Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI), Aqua and Terra Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). In addition, significant factors affecting recovery were identified, and recovery of the landscapes carbon sequestration capacity was assessed. Key variables analyzed included biomass production, seasonally accumulated precipitation, max seasonal temperature, and elevation including slope and aspect. These factors affect land management by driving the success or failure of recovery efforts.