May 23, 2016

NASA satellite data shows rapid recovery for some California forests despite drought

California
USA
by
Darryl Waller
,
Phys.org
A 2015 photo of severely burned areas from the Summit Fire of 2008 that were detected by NASA satellite images. Note the extensive new vegetation regrowth around the charred tree trunks. Photo: NASA
A 2015 photo of severely burned areas from the Summit Fire of 2008 that were detected by NASA satellite images. Note the extensive new vegetation regrowth around the charred tree trunks. Photo: NASA

NASA researchers have found that years of California's drought conditions have not slowed the regrowth of tree and shrub cover in areas burned by wildfires.

According to aerial surveys conducted by the U. S. Forest Service last summer, the recent California drought resulted in millions of dead trees, mainly in the Sierra Nevada mountain regions of the state.

But a newly published study in the April 2016 issue of the Open Journal of Forestry by scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center has revealed that forests and woodlands in the Santa Cruz mountains near San Jose and Silicon Valley suffered little or no detectable loss of trees over the past several years. Instead, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey's Landsat satellite images over the past three decades showed that the severe drought periods recorded since the 1980s have not slowed rapid tree and shrub growth, especially on steep slopes burned recently by wildfires