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Remote Sens. 2016, 8(7), 539; doi:10.3390/rs8070539

Four National Maps of Broad Forest Type Provide Inconsistent Answers to the Question of What Burns in Canada

Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Northern Forestry Centre, 5320 122 St Edmonton, AB T6H 3S5, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Martin Herold, Ioannis Gitas and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 31 March 2016 / Revised: 29 May 2016 / Accepted: 16 June 2016 / Published: 24 June 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Validation and Inter-Comparison of Land Cover and Land Use Data)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1898 KB, uploaded 24 June 2016]   |  


Wildfires are burning increasingly extensive areas of forest in Canada, reducing their capacity as carbon sinks. Here we compare the answers that four independent land cover datasets, produced from different satellite images (SPOT, Landsat, and MODIS), provide for the question of what burned in Canada in recent years. We harmonized the different datasets into a common, simpler legend consisting of three classes of forest (needle-leaf, broadleaf, and mixed) plus non-forest, and resampled them to a common pixel size (250 m). Then we used annual maps of burned area to count, for each map and year from 2011 to 2014, the number of burned pixels of each class, and we tabulated them by terrestrial ecozone and Canada-wide. While all four maps agree that needle-leaf forest is the most frequently burned class in Canada, there is great disparity in the results from each map regarding the proportion of burned area that each class represents. Proportions reported by one map can be more than double those reported by another map, and more than four times at the ecozone level. We discuss the various factors that can explain the observed discrepancies and conclude that none of the maps provides a sufficiently accurate answer for applications such as carbon accounting. There is a need for better information in areas lacking forest inventory, especially in the vast unmanaged forest of Canada. View Full-Text
Keywords: land cover mapping; accuracy assessment; burned area; Canada; Landsat; SPOT; MODIS land cover mapping; accuracy assessment; burned area; Canada; Landsat; SPOT; MODIS

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Castilla, G.; Rodrigue, S.; Skakun, R.S.; Hall, R.J. Four National Maps of Broad Forest Type Provide Inconsistent Answers to the Question of What Burns in Canada. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 539.

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