Post fire vegetation recovery in Portugal based on SPOT-VEGETATION data

Gouveia C., DaCamara C.C, Trigo R.M.
Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 10, 673-684

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A procedure is presented that allows identifying large burned scars and the monitoring of vegetation recovery in the years following major fire episodes. The procedure relies on 10-day fields of Maximum Value Composites of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (MVC-NDVI), with a 1 km×1 km spatial resolution obtained from the VEGETATION instrument. The identification of fire scars during the extremely severe 2003 fire season is performed based on cluster analysis of NDVI anomalies that persist during the vegetative cycle of the year following the fire event. Two regions containing very large burned scars were selected, located in Central and Southwestern Portugal, respectively, and time series of MVC-NDVI analysed before the fire events took place and throughout the post-fire period. It is shown that post-fire vegetation dynamics in the two selected regions may be characterised based on maps of recovery rates as estimated by fitting a monoparametric model of vegetation recovery to MVC-NDVI data over each burned scar. Results indicated that the recovery process in the region located in Central Portugal is mostly related to fire damage rather than to vegetation density before 2003, whereas the latter seems to have a more prominent role than vegetation conditions after the fire episode, e.g. in the case of the region in Southwestern Portugal. These differences are consistent with the respective predominant types of vegetation. The burned area located in Central Portugal is dominated by Pinus Pinaster whose natural regeneration crucially depends on the destruction of seeds present on the soil surface during the fire, whereas the burned scar in Southwestern Portugal was populated by Eucalyptus that may quickly re-sprout from buds after fire. Besides its simplicity, the monoparametric model of vegetation recovery has the advantage of being easily adapted to other low-resolution satellite data, as well as to other types of vegetation indices.