Geography ETDs

Publication Date

Winter 12-19-2017


In the past couple of decades, there has been an increase in the occurrence of wildfire events in the United States. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that over 73,000 wildfires on average occur annually in the U.S., burning about 7.3 million acres of land. Bandelier National Monument, in northern New Mexico, has been affected by several wildfires in the past 40 years, one of the most recent being the Las Conchas Fire in 2011, which burned over 60,700 hectaresin Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera National Preserve. This research explores a remote-sensing based assessment of vegetation response to and recovery from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. Post-fire vegetation distribution was evaluated and analyzed to determine if fire severity and fire frequency were correlated with vegetation degradation or conversion. Analytical results, coupled with field observations, allow us to evaluate pre- and post-fire vegetation change at the community-type level. Classifications had varying levels of accuracy throughout the study area. Many areas that suffered vegetation mortality as a result of fire exposure have exhibited growth of New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana), gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), which have been recorded in other forested areas affected by fire in the state. Based on cross-tabulation analysis results, nearly 75% of pixels suffered disturbance or vegetation type conversion, while 25% remained unchanged or recovered to the same type. Vegetation response related to fire variables based on amount of area per variable. This study is relevant for understanding and managing burned landscapes in arid and semi-arid regions. It contributes to a growing knowledge of the effects of large, high severity wildfires on vegetation distribution and resilience.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Caitlin L. Lippitt

Second Committee Member

Christopher D. Lippitt

Third Committee Member

Craig D. Allen

Document Type





vegetation stress, wildfire, fire ecology, Remote Sensing, GIS, New Mexico