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Mapping fuels in Yosemite National Park

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Decades of fire suppression have led to unnaturally large accumulations of fuel in some forest communities in the western United States, including those found in lower and midelevation forests in Yosemite National Park in California. We employed the Random Forests decision tree algorithm to predict fuel models as well as 1-h live and 1-, 10-, and 100-h dead fuel loads using a suite of climatic, topographic, remotely sensed, and burn history predictor variables. Climate variables and elevation consistently were most useful for predicting all types of fuels, but remotely sensed variables increased the kappa accuracy metric by 5%–12% age points in each case, demonstrating the utility of using disparate data sources in a topographically diverse region dominated by closed-canopy vegetation. Fire history information (time-since-fire) generally only increased kappa by 1% age point, and only for the largest fuel classes. The Random Forests models were applied to the spatial predictor layers to produce maps of fuel models and fuel loads, and these showed that fuel loads are highest in the low-elevation forests that have been most affected by fire suppression impacting the natural fire regime.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA. 2: Department of Geography, University of California at Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA. 3: US Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Yosemite Field Station, El Portal, CA 95318-0700, USA.

Publication date: 2013-01-01

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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