Forest Resilience and Vulnerability Assessments in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains
Authors: Matt Luizza, Amy Birtwistle, Kelli Groy, Bill Zawacki
Mentors/Advisors (affiliation): Dr. Jeffrey Morisette (U.S. Geological Survey), Dr. Paul Evangelista (Natural Resource Ecology Lab, Colorado State University)
Past/Other Contributors: Stephen Chignell, Colorado State University
Team Location: North Central Climate Science Center, Fort Collins, Colorado
Abstract: The MPB (Dendroctonus ponderosae) infestation has reached epidemic proportions across coniferous forests in the Rocky Mountains. Understanding the changes in forest structure and composition due to beetle infestation is critical for addressing an array of questions about ecological processes occurring at multiple scales. These include questions related to forest regeneration, fuel-loading and increased potential for wildfires, watershed hydrology, introduction and spread of non-native flora, changes in habitat suitability for wildlife and impacts on recreational activities. The goal of this project is to calibrate an ecological baseline model of forest cover in Fraser Experimental Forest preceding the MPB outbreak in western Colorado. Using a time-series array of NASA Landsat products with multiple geospatial data (e.g. elevation, slope, aspect, soils) and field plots, we are using a boosted regression tree model to produce a forest cover map of Fraser Experimental Forest. Our results were compared to current forest conditions to assess changes in forest composition and structure over space and time allowing agency partners to better understand the impacts from MPB infestation. Our goal is to produce a forest classification model with an accuracy of at least 80 percent, building on the work conducted by the summer 2012 NASA DEVELOP team at Fort Collins Science Center. This research is in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, U.S. Forest Service Fraser Experimental Forest Station, Colorado State University’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, and ColoradoView.
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