Improved fuel moisture prediction in non-native tropical Megathyrsus maximus grasslands using Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)-derived vegetation indices.
The synergistic impacts of non-native grass invasion and frequent human-derived wildfires threaten endangered species, native ecosystems and developed land throughout the tropics. Fire behaviour models assist in fire prevention and management, but current models do not accurately predict fire in tropical ecosystems. Specifically, current models poorly predict fuel moisture, a key driver of fire behaviour. To address this limitation, we developed empirical models to predict fuel moisture in non-native tropical grasslands dominated by Megathyrsus maximus in Hawaii from Terra Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)-based vegetation indices. Best-performing MODIS-based predictive models for live fuel moisture included the two-band Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI2) and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Live fuel moisture models had modest (R2=0.46) predictive relationships, and outperformed the commonly used National Fire Danger Rating System (R2=0.37) and the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (R2=0.06). Dead fuel moisture was also best predicted by a model including EVI2 and NDVI, but predictive capacity was low (R2=0.19). Site-specific models improved model fit for live fuel moisture (R2=0.61), but limited extrapolation. Better predictions of fuel moisture will improve fire management in tropical ecosystems dominated by this widespread and problematic non-native grass.