Recovery after fire
Wildfires are becoming more prevalent and are impacting forests, watersheds and important resources. Hydrologic and geomorphic processes following wildfires can include erosion flooding, and degraded water quality. To mitigate these secondary impacts, post-fire restoration treatments can be applied to a burned area to stabilize the land surface or promote vegetative regrowth. This research focuses on wood and straw mulch treatment implemented after the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado (United States) and estimates the spatial and temporal changes in annual and seasonal vegetation after a fire with respect to geomorphic factors. This study highlights the use of satellite-based remote sensing products to investigate the impacts of post-fire rehabilitation treatments on vegetation. Using Enhanced Vegetation Index as a proxy for vegetative growth, vegetation conditions are evaluated with respect to slope, slope aspect, and burn severity to understand the impact of the ground cover treatments on vegetation for five years before and after the fire (2007-2016). Sixty-three burned and untreated sites, forty-nine burned sites treated with wood mulch, and twenty-eight burned sites treated with straw mulch were analyzed. These sites were also compared to two control sites that were unburned and untreated, Hunter's Run and Fountain Creek. Generally, post-fire conditions did not return to pre-fire levels, where average vegetation levels were lower. By the end of the study, burned and untreated sites had larger vegetative levels than burned and treated sites. The vegetation levels of the burned sites were statistically different (α = 0.05) from pre-fire conditions in all areas of treatment. Burned sites treated with wood and straw recovered to 69% and 73% of pre-fire conditions, respectively. This work demonstrates the novel use of remote sensing to observe vegetation after post-fire treatment applications to augment the number of sites and length of time that can be analyzed. The observed change in vegetation conditions also contributes to furthering our understanding of the impacts of post-fire restoration, which is important for post-fire management.