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Remote Sens. 2016, 8(9), 766;

Estimating Ladder Fuels: A New Approach Combining Field Photography with LiDAR

Ecosystem Sciences Division, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, 130 Mulford Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
SILVIS Lab, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA
University of California Center for Fire Research and Outreach, College of Natural Resources, 130 Mulford Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Orleans Ranger Station, Hwy 96/1 Ishi-Pishi Road, Orleans, CA 95556, USA
Marek Jakubowski Consulting, 560 Boulevard PI NE, Atlanta, GA 30308, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 28 April 2016 / Accepted: 12 September 2016 / Published: 17 September 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Vegetation Structure and Dynamics)
PDF [3057 KB, uploaded 22 September 2016]


Forests historically associated with frequent fire have changed dramatically due to fire suppression and past harvesting over the last century. The buildup of ladder fuels, which carry fire from the surface of the forest floor to tree crowns, is one of the critical changes, and it has contributed to uncharacteristically large and severe fires. The abundance of ladder fuels makes it difficult to return these forests to their natural fire regime or to meet management objectives. Despite the importance of ladder fuels, methods for quantifying them are limited and imprecise. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), a form of active remote sensing, is able to estimate many aspects of forest structure across a landscape. This study investigates a new method for quantifying ladder fuel in the field (using photographs with a calibration banner) and remotely (using LiDAR data). We apply these new techniques in the Klamath Mountains of Northern California to predict ladder fuel levels across the study area. Our results demonstrate a new utility of LiDAR data to identify fire hazard and areas in need of fuels reduction. View Full-Text
Keywords: LiDAR; ladder fuel; wildland fire; forest structure; Klamath LiDAR; ladder fuel; wildland fire; forest structure; Klamath

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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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Kramer, H.A.; Collins, B.M.; Lake, F.K.; Jakubowski, M.K.; Stephens, S.L.; Kelly, M. Estimating Ladder Fuels: A New Approach Combining Field Photography with LiDAR. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 766.

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