La Cordillera Regrowth

Landsat satellite data are frequently used to monitor conditions during and after natural and anthropogenic changes to the land surface of the planet. 

In 2005, large fires caused extensive damage to forested regions in the Cordillera Central, the mountains in the Dominican Republic. The fires started in the José del Carmen Ramirez National Park, on the lower reaches of Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the Dominican Republic. The flames raced up the mountain, consuming the pine, palm, and broadleaf rainforests that grow at higher elevations. 

A Landsat 7 image, acquired on March 21, showed the extent of the major fire units. The newly burned mountain slopes are dark brown, while unburned forest is green. The hot fire fronts glow red, revealing the extent of the active fires. Thick smoke, tinted blue in this image, rises from the fires. 

A Landsat image acquired in July 2005 shows the extent of the fire scars (brown tones) and grasses growing more quickly (light green) than tree stands. 

The February 2011 image shows the regrowth of the forest lands. The fire scars are covered by darker green tones representing developing forest lands. 

Beyond the impact of the fires on forests, regional and international teams study the rate of regrowth as the newly exposed, steep sloped soils are more vulnerable to erosion, thus affecting water quality in down slope rivers, which are the principle source of drinking water for the region.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012