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Landsat-based monitoring of landscape dynamics in Mount Rainier National Park: 1985-2009

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Author(s): Natalya Antonova, Catherine Copass, Shelby Clary

Document Type: Natural Resource Data Series NPS/NCCN/NRDS-2014/637
Publisher: National Park Service
Published Year: 2014
Pages: 42
DOI Identifier:
ISBN Identifier:

As part of Vital Signs Monitoring, the North Coast and Cascades Network (NCCN) of the National Park Service (NPS) developed a protocol for monitoring landscape dynamics using Landsat satellite imagery. The protocol was implemented at Mount Rainier National Park (MORA) in 2013 using LandTrendr (Landsat-based Detection of Trends in Disturbance and Recovery) algorithms developed by the Laboratory for Applications of Remote Sensing in Ecology (LARSE) at Oregon State University.

We mapped eight categories of landscape change occurring at MORA and surrounding areas from 1985 to 2009: Avalanches, Clearing, Development, Fire, Mass Movements, Progressive Defoliation, Riparian, and Tree Toppling. The Avalanche category captures long, linear change which partially or completely removes vegetation from the valley wall following release of a large mass of snow down a mountainside. Clearings are areas under forest management where practices vary from thinning to clearcuts. The Development category captures change associated with complete and persistent removal of vegetation and shift to a built landscape. Changes due to Fire vary in intensity from full canopy removal to partial burns that leave behind a mix of dead and singed trees. The Mass Movement category includes landslides found on valley walls and debris flows associated with steep gradient streams. Progressive Defoliation is a change type where forest cover remains but has declined due to insect infestation, disease or drought. Riparian changes are restricted to valley floors along major streams and rivers and capture areas where either conifer or broadleaf vegetation previously existed and has been converted to river channel. Change due to Tree Toppling is evidenced by fallen, broken or topped trees, generally due to wind but sometimes to root rot. Only changes larger than 0.8 ha and for which the duration of the period of landscape change was <4 years were mapped.

The MORA study area is 385,000 ha, of which 25% is inside the park. Approximately 14.5% of the study area underwent detectable change during the 25 year period of analysis, affecting ~0.54% MORA and ~19.34% of the area outside the park boundary. The annual average area impacted by landscape change within the study area was about 2,235 ha. Within the park boundary, the annual average area undergoing change was ~21 ha. Clearing was the major change type within the study area over the last 25 years, followed by Progressive Defoliation. Clearing occurred predominately outside the park boundary. Inside the park, Riparian was the most significant agent of landscape change, followed by Fire and Tree Toppling.

The inter-annual variability in the total area experiencing landscape change was considerable. The greatest amount of change outside the park boundary was documented in 1985 and was associated with the Clearing category. The years 2006 and 2004 also had higher than average change. Within the MORA boundary, 2007 was the year in which the greatest change was detected, due to a significant flood event which occurred November of 2006, followed by 2004, the year of the Redstone Fires. An analysis of the size of change patches showed that, on average, Avalanches, Mass Movements and Riparian changes are smaller but more numerous, whereas Fires tend to be larger but fewer.

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Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Antonova and others (2014) or (Antonova et al., 2014)

References Citation:
Antonova, N., C. Copass, and S. Clary, 2014, Landsat-based monitoring of landscape dynamics in Mount Rainier National Park: 1985-2009: Natural Resource Data Series NPS/NCCN/NRDS-2014/637, National Park Service, 42 p..