Evaluation of remotely sensed indices for quantifying burn severity in arid ecoregions

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It is sometimes assumed the sparse and low statured vegetation in arid systems would limit the effectiveness of two remote-sensing derived indices of burn severity: the difference Normalised Burn Ratio (dNBR) and relativised difference Normalised Burn Ratio (RdNBR). We compared the relationship that dNBR, RdNBR and a ground-based index of burn severity (the Composite Burn Index, CBI) had with woody cover and woody density 1 year after burning in five fires that occurred in the Mojave Desert during 2005. Statistically, dNBR and RdNBR were both effective measures of severity in all three elevation zones; woody cover and density had steep exponential declines as the values of each remote-sensing index increased. We found though that dNBR was more ecologically interpretable than RdNBR and will likely be of most relevance in the Mojave Desert.

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