Satellite monitoring of vegetation phenology and fire fuel conditions in hawaiian drylands

Andrew J. Elmore, Gregory P. Asner, R. Flint Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Grass-fueled fires accelerate grassland expansion into dry Hawaiian woodlands by destroying native forests and by producing a disturbance regime that favors grass-dominated plant communities. Knowledge of grassland phenology is a key component of ecosystem assessments and fire management in Hawaii, but diverse topographic relief and poor field-sampling capabilities make ground studies impractical. Remote sensing offers the best approach for large-scale, spatially contiguous measurements of dryland vegetation phenology and fire fuel conditions. A 500-m spatial resolution, 8-day temporal resolution Terra Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite time series of photosynthetic vegetation (PV), nonphotosynthetic vegetation (NPV), and exposed substrate conditions was developed for the island of Hawaii between 2000 and 2004. The results compared favorably with similar measurements of drylands from higher-resolution aircraft data. The satellite time series was compared with available environmental data on precipitation, fire history, and grazing intensity. From these analyses, the temporal patterns of PV and its conversion to NPV and finally to bare substrate were observed. An NPV buildup following fire of 7-8 yr was projected, and more heavily grazed lands were found to exhibit reduced NPV cover, most notably during the summer fire season. These results demonstrate the effects that land use and disturbance history have on fire conditions, and they support the concept that grazed lands managed to reduce litter buildup pose a lower risk of fire across ample geographic scales. Time series of satellite observations with modern analysis techniques can be used with environmental data to support a regional fire-monitoring program throughout Hawaii.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEarth Interactions
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Hawaii
  • Remote sensing
  • Wildfire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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