Leveraging open-access Earth observation data streams and web-based cloud computing for the characterization of forest harvest area regeneration in Alberta, Canada.

Authors: Jennifer N. Hird*, Applied Geospatial Research Group, Dept of Geography, University of Calgary, Jahan Kariyeva, Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Greg J. McDermid, Applied Geospatial Research Group, Dept of Geography, University of Calgary
Topics: Remote Sensing, Environment, Land Use and Land Cover Change
Keywords: forestry, harvest areas, regeneration, Landsat time series, normalized burn ratio, Google Earth Engine
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Balcony B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The province of Alberta, Canada is well-known for its responsible forest management practices, where legal requirements for sustainable timber harvest drive actors in the forest industry to remain on the leading edge of silvicultural best practices. This includes post-harvest replanting and subsequent regeneration monitoring. Post-harvest regeneration is therefore well understood within particular forest management areas by those who manage them. However, broader regional- to provincial-level understandings of harvest area regeneration trends in Alberta are currently lacking, even with the availability of public, geospatial data on these features as part of the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute’s (ABMI’s) Human Footprint Inventory (HFI) product. In light of this knowledge gap, we leverage the long-running, freely-available Landsat archive and the web-based, cloud computing Google Earth Engine platform to extract spectrally-based time series metrics related to regeneration on forest harvest areas. Our objective is to provide a remote sensing-based characterization of regeneration across the province of Alberta that will support responsible land use planning and resource management, among other applications. The workflow involves per-pixel Normalized Burn Ratio time series analyses, summarized at the level of the individual harvest area. Preliminary results are promising, with a provincially-distributed sample of harvest areas showing an average rate of spectrally-based regeneration at 6.2% per year (s.d. = 3.4%), and calculated times to 50% and 80% of pre-harvest spectral values at 8.4 years (s.d. = 6.4 yrs) and 13.4 years (s.d. = 10.2 years), respectively. Post-harvest 5-year spectral regeneration levels averaged 49.2% (s.d. = 19.8%).

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