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Mapping fire scars in a southern African savannah using Landsat imagery

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The spectral, spatial and temporal characteristics of the Landsat data record make it appropriate for mapping fire scars. Twenty-two annual fire scar maps from 1972-2002 were produced from historical Landsat imagery for a semi-arid savannah landscape on the South Africa-Botswana border, centred over Madikwe Game Reserve (MGR) in South Africa. A principal components transformation (PCT) helped differentiate the spectral signal of fire scars in each image. A simple, nonparametric, supervised classification (parallelepiped) of the PCT data differentiated burned and unburned areas. During most years, fire occurrences and the percentage of area burned annually were lowest in Botswana, highest in MGR, and intermediate in South Africa outside MGR. These fire scar maps are aiding MGR managers, who are endeavouring to restore a more active fire regime following decades of fire exclusion.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station 1221 S. Main Street Moscow, Idaho 83843 USA 1-208-883-2327 1-208-883-2318, Email: 2: North West Parks & Tourism Board P.O. Box 1201 Mogwase 0314 South Africa 27-14-555-5351 27-14-555-5525, Email:

Publication date: August 1, 2004

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