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Project Plan for Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity

April 29, 2005

1. Identification

This Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity project will also referred to as the MTBS project.

2. Project Background

There is a need to provide agency leaders, elected officials, and the general public with summary information regarding the effects of large wildfires. Recently, the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC), which implements and coordinates National Fire Plan (NFP) and Federal Wildland Fire Management Policies (National Fire Plan, 2004), adopted a strategy to monitor the effectiveness and effects of the National Fire Plan and the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA). One component of this strategy is to assess the environmental impacts of large wildland fires and identify the trends of burn severity on all lands across the United States (WFLC 2004 Monitoring Proposal, Module 2.1). In 2004, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) develop and implement comprehensive assessments of burn severity to provide consistent summary information characterizing the environmental effects of wildland fires and meet the requirements of WFLC.

3. Purpose/Business Need

This project will map burn severity using the Differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (DNBR) approach at 30m spatial resolution for all fires in the United States meeting a minimum size requirement. The minimum size will be 500 acres or greater for all eastern fires (east of the -97o longitude) and 1,000 acres or greater for the rest of the US.

The DNBR approach will be used to map burn severity and analyze fire trends for fires going back uninterrupted to 1982. This will be accomplished by using archived and current Landsat imagery. Future fires will be mapped and analyzed using the same techniques to allow continuous monitoring of burn severity trends across the nation.

The primary objective of this project is to provide for a national analysis of trends in burn severity for the National Fire Plan. Because of severe droughts and greater than normal numbers of catastrophic fires in recent years (since 2000), it is essential for the trend analysis to account for potential climate variability and base the assessment on a longer period of time (hence going back to 1982) than just the last several years.

The work will be performed jointly by the US Geological Survey, National Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) and the USDA Forest Service, Remote Sensing Applications Center (RSAC). This work will be an extension of the existing cooperation between these two National Centers that currently provide rapid response burn severity mapping products to Forest Service and DOI Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) Teams. Satellite imagery and products developed for BAER support will be leveraged for this larger assessment which covers all fires over a longer time period.

This project proposal will serve three primary user groups with one set of data and information:

  1. National policies and policy makers such as the National Fire Plan and WFLC, which require information about long-term trends in burn severity and recent burn severity by vegetation types, fuel models, condition classes (data from LANDFIRE), and results and accomplishments (data from NFPORS)
  2. Field management units that benefit from GIS-ready maps and data for pre- and post-fire management decisions and monitoring
  3. Existing databases such as Fire Regime and Condition Class (FRCC) and LANDFIRE can integrate burn data produced at compatible spatial scale and resolution for validation and updating geospatial data sets

4. Project Scope

The national burn severity-mapping project will be conducted in two time phases. The fires occurring in 2006-2010 will be mapped and reported annually. All fires between 1982 and present (2005) will be mapped, analyzed and reported in six years. We will map fires that occurred during the 20002005 time period in the first two and half years of the project, and fires which occurred during the 1982-1999 time period in the next three and half years. Fires will be mapped according to the following process and specifications:

  1. Identify fire locations. For older fires (1982-2003), fire locations are listed and available. For fires from 2004 - 2010, we will work with the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) staff to obtain locations of fires to map.
  2. Analysts from EROS and RSAC will meet to select scenes based on the following criteria:

    1. Fires that are 500 acres or greater for the eastern states and 1,000 acres or greater for the rest of the US
    2. Geographic locations: whether multiple fires existing on one path/row or a single fire covering multiple scenes
    3. Seasonal effects: selecting the best timing in a season for pre- and post-fire Landsat scenes based on experiences and lessons learned
    4. Extent of cloud cover

  3. Selected Landsat scenes will be submitted for acquisition and processing to the highest standards for geometric and radiometric rectifications. The normalized burn ratio will be produced for each scene.
  4. Analysts will develop Differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (DNBR), and produce DNBR classes. Fire perimeters will be mapped using a semi-automatic approach.
  5. Mapping will be conducted in a nationally consistent Albers equal-area map projection. Files will be produced in GIS-ready format.
  6. Analysts will intersect DNBR classes with available vegetation cover types cross-walked to the nationally consistent Ecological Systems classification, and produce tables of acres burned by DNBR classes and vegetation cover types.
  7. Analysts will overlay DNBR classes with NFPORS fuel treatment project centroids (already available) or polygons (when available) to produce acres burned by severity classes and status of hazardous fuel reduction efforts.

5. Deliverables

  1. Data products
    1. 30m-resolution map showing DNBR burn severity classes
    2. Fire perimeter based on 30m satellite imagery
    3. Metadata for the above geospatial data layers
    4. Tabular data summarizing acres burned by severity classes
    5. Tabular data summarizing acres burned by severity classes and vegetation cover types (if available)
    6. Tabular data summarizing acres burned by severity classes and presence or absence of fuel treatment projects.
  2. Reporting
    1. Annual reporting of acres burned by DNBR burn severity classes
    2. Analysis and reporting of burn severity acres by vegetation cover types, fuel treatment projects, and other stratifications (e.g. socio-economic regions).
    3. Above tables will be submitted annually to the WFLC and NIFC.
  3. Data distribution
    1. Existing infrastructure exists at both EROS and RSAC to store and distribute image maps online through web-based map servers.
    2. In addition, capability can be developed to link the map servers to the National Fire Plan web page so that burn severity maps can be downloaded directly from the NFP site.
    3. Burn severity maps will be permanently archived at USGS EROS.
  4. Technology transfer
    1. Documentations about how the project is conducted and recommended uses.
    2. Training workshops will be held to discuss applications using DNBR burn severity maps.
    3. Web-based training modules will be provided to facilitate applications using DNBR burn severity maps.
    4. Findings from analysis of national trends in burn severity will be documented and published in peer-reviewed journals.

6. Key Milestones

Key Milestones Scheduled Completion
Data compilation and burn severity mapping for 2000 2005 fires 3rd Quarter FY 2008
Data compilation and burn severity mapping for 2006 - 2010 fires Mapped and reported annually by 3rd Quarter of following year
Data compilation and burn severity mapping for 1982 1999 fires 2nd Quarter FY 2011

7. Organization and Responsibilities

Organizations Performing the Work
USFS Remote Sensing Applications Center (RSAC) -- RSAC is a National Service Center of the USDA Forest Service Washington Office Engineering Staff located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The mission of RSAC is to provide technical and operational support to Forest Service resource specialists and managers in the use of remote sensing, image processing, GIS, and related geospatial data and technologies for all resource applications. For more information on RSAC visit http://www.fs.fed.us/eng/rsac.

US Geological Survey, National Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) EROS is a data management, systems development, and research field center for the U.S. Geological Survey located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. EROS receives, processes, archives and distributes remotely sensed image data collected by civilian satellites and aircraft. EROS also collects and maintains an extensive archive of related geospatial data such as land cover, digital elevation models and digital cartographic data. For more information on EROS visit https://eros.usgs.gov/.

Executive Oversight Committee
A MTBS project proposes that the existing LANDFIRE Executive Oversight Committee be utilized to provide project oversight, monitor project accomplishments and reporting, and coordinate with WFLC Monitoring Framework Team. This will also assure close coordination with LANDFIRE mapping activities.

Project Leads

The Project Leads have direct, day-to-day responsibility for the MTBS project. There will be two Project Leads, one from EROS and one from RSAC. The Project Leads are responsible for:

Project Team
The MTBS Project Team includes all people who will conduct the work to successfully complete the project. The Project Team will include specific and accountable members from EROS and RSAC, and other contractors or universities as needed and approved.

Project Advisors
Project Advisors serve the MTBS Project Team by providing periodic input on specialty subjects. Members may include:

Forest Service:
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