Urban fire severity and vegetation dynamics in southern California.
A combination of satellite image indices and in-field observations was used to investigate the impact of fuel conditions, fire behavior, and vegetation regrowth patterns, altered by invasive riparian vegetation. Satellite image metrics, differenced normalized burn severity (dNBR) and differenced normalized difference vegetation index (dNDVI), were approximated for non-native, riparian, or upland vegetation for traditional timeframes (0-, 1-, and 3-years) after eleven urban fires across a spectrum of invasive vegetation cover. Larger burn severity and loss of green canopy (NDVI) was detected for riparian areas compared to the uplands. The presence of invasive vegetation affected the distribution of burn severity and canopy loss detected within each fire. Fires with native vegetation cover had a higher severity and resulted in larger immediate loss of canopy than fires with substantial amounts of non-native vegetation. The lower burn severity observed 1-3 years after the fires with non-native vegetation suggests a rapid regrowth of non-native grasses, resulting in a smaller measured canopy loss relative to native vegetation immediately after fire. This observed fire pattern favors the life cycle and perpetuation of many opportunistic grasses within urban riparian areas. This research builds upon our current knowledge of wildfire recovery processes and highlights the unique challenges of remotely assessing vegetation biophysical status within urban Mediterranean riverine systems.