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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A spectral mixture analysis approach to mapping fire refugia in the Montane Cordillera Zhang, Tian Cheng (Tony)


Changing fire regimes in western North America poses uncertainties to forest composition and recovery after fire. Little research links post-fire landscape patterns to the ecological role of surviving forest patches, known as fire refugia. I attempted to bridge this knowledge gap by exploring (1) how well spectral mixture analysis (SMA) can map and quantify fire refugia, (2) the linkage between moderate-scale (30m) fire refugia obtained from Landsat imagery and forest recovery, and (3) fire refugia patterns in the Montane Cordillera ecozone from 1985 to 2020. I developed an SMA workflow that effectively mapped fire refugia at a landscape scale but was less effective at quantifying fine-scale fire refugia. I identified fire refugia density as a minor but significant variable in determining forest recovery at a spatial resolution of 30m. I found no significant changes in the proportions of fire refugia within most of the Montane Cordillera ecozone, with the exception of the Interior Cedar-Hemlock region, which showed an increasing fire refugia proportion over a 35-year span. These results support regional fire refugia and burn severity trends in other similar forested regions, suggesting forest resilience to increased fires. My research demonstrated an SMA-based methodology for effectively mapping fire refugia. A better understanding of fire refugia distribution could aid research and managing post-fire forest ecology at a landscape scale.

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