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Fire, Land Cover and Climate Change

PI: Lauren Seaby
Institution: UCSB Bren School
Abstract:
This project is designed to address the following question in Mediterranean-type ecosystems (MTEs): What is the combined effect of potential climate change and modified fire regimes on river flow characteristics that are important for water resources, ecosystem processes and functioning, and property damage? Increased ignition sources associated with growing human populations and expected changes in climatic conditions are likely to increase fire frequencies in shrubland watersheds, typical of MTEs, over the next century. The following general hypothesis is tested for chaparral watersheds in California: Changes in fire regime and climate will alter aggregate ecosystem conditions giving rise to modified long-term river flow characteristics. The research hypothesis will be tested using an existing, physically based ecohydrological model (RHESSys) applied to two chaparral watersheds near Santa Barbara, California. The research project includes the following related components: 1) Time-space variations of shrub LAI during fire recovery are estimated from Landsat TM data and AVHRR data, 2) RHESSys is calibrated and evaluated using a bi-variate approach based on satellite-based estimates of LAI patterns and observed streamflow and 3) RHESSys is used to evaluate the impact of future fire and climate regimes on vegetation recovery and associated hydrologic response.












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