Using UAV's and Big Data to Map Live Trees and Predict Postfire Regeneration
Developed under CAL FIRE grant 18-CCI-0063-LNU
Derek Young and Andrew Latimer, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis
In many California forests, wildfires are increasingly burning at high severity over large areas, creating landscapes with low potential for natural regeneration. Post-fire tree planting is accordingly playing an important role in post-fire forest management, but the large extent of high-severity burned area is stretching resources. Accurate predictions of natural regeneration patterns could improve the efficiency of post-fire restoration efforts, but current methods for predicting regeneration are limited by (1) lack of detailed information on the location and density of the surviving trees that serve as seed sources and (2) coarse representation of seed dispersal processes. We are working to improve predictive accuracy through a “big data” approach that explicitly maps seed-source trees and mechanistically accounts for biologically realistic seed dispersal processes. Our study aims to establish a new methodology that involves inferring individual-tree dispersal patterns without needing to isolate individual trees.
First, we are creating spatially extensive (~300 ha) maps of surviving trees (potential seed sources) from recently burned landscapes by collecting drone imagery and processing it into 3D forest models and 2D stem maps using automated photogrammetry and tree detection algorithms. We are also conducting intensive plot surveys across these same landscapes to quantify the spatial variation in natural regeneration and ground-truth the drone-derived tree maps. To predict tree recruitment across these landscapes, we are applying a novel spatially-explicit modeling framework to simultaneously characterize (a) individual-tree dispersal distances and (b) the joint contribution of multiple seed sources (mature trees) to seed rain in a given site. We will use our fitted model to make spatially-continuous predictions of natural regeneration at high resolution (10 m) across these landscapes. We will package our resulting model into a web application for easy application to future fires.
This is not a full project website, but it is one page from PI Young’s professional website.
Video of the 2018 Delta Fire study site, showing the heterogeneity in live tree density.
The field crew surveying a regeneration plot on the 2015 Valley Fire at Boggs Mountain Demonstration State Forest.
A drone photograph part of the 2018 Delta Fire study site showing the heterogeneity in live tree density.
Visualization of a 3D point cloud from Emerald Point (Emerald Bay State Park) produced by processing drone imagery.
(Top panel) high-resolution drone-derived aerial imagery from a portion of the 2012 Chips Fire (Plumas National Forest) and (bottom panel) digital surface model of the same landscape produced by processing the drone imagery, showing topographic variation in elevation and trees emerging above the surrounding land.