Hyperspectral and LiDAR remote sensing of fire fuels in Hawaii volcanoes National Park

Timothy A. Varga, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Alien invasive grasses threaten to transform Hawaiian ecosystems through the alteration of ecosystem dynamics, especially the creation or intensification of a fire cycle. Across sub-montane ecosystems of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island, we quantified fine fuels and fire spread potential of invasive grasses using a combination of airborne hyperspectral and light detection and ranging (LiDAR) measurements. Across a gradient from forest to savanna to shrubland, automated mixture analysis of hyperspectral data provided spatially explicit fractional cover estimates of photosynthetic vegetation, non-photosynthetic vegetation, and bare substrate and shade. Small-footprint LiDAR provided measurements of vegetation height along this gradient of ecosystems. Through the fusion of hyperspectral and LiDAR data, a new fire fuel index (FFI) was developed to model the three-dimensional volume of grass fuels. Regionally, savanna ecosystems had the highest volumes of fire fuels, averaging 20% across the ecosystem and frequently filling all of the three-dimensional space represented by each image pixel. The forest and shrubland ecosystems had lower FFI values, averaging 4.4% and 8.4%, respectively. The results indicate that the fusion of hyperspectral and LiDAR remote sensing can provide unique information on the three-dimensional properties of ecosystems, their flammability, and the potential for fire spread.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-623
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • African grasses
  • Data fusion
  • Fire fuel
  • Hawaii, USA
  • Imaging spectroscopy
  • Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) measurements
  • Remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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