Much interest lies in long-term recovery rates of sagebrush communities after fire in the western United States, as sagebrush communities comprise millions of hectares of rangelands and are an important wildlife habitat. Little is known about postfire changes in sagebrush canopy cover over time, especially at a landscape scale. We studied postfire recovery of shrub canopy cover in sagebrush-steppe communities with the use of spectral mixture analysis. Our study included 16 different fires that burned between 1937 and 2005 and one unburned site at the US Sheep Experiment Station in eastern Idaho. Spectral mixture analysis was used with September 2006 Systeme Pour l'Observation de la Terre-5 (SPOT-5) satellite imagery to estimate percent shrub canopy cover within pixels. Very large-scale aerial (VLSA) imagery with 24-mm resolution was used for training and validation. SPOT-5 image classification was successful and the spectral mixture analysis estimates of percent shrub canopy cover were highly correlated with the shrub canopy cover estimates in the VLSA imagery (R2 = 0.82; P < 0.0001). Additional accuracy assessment of shrub classification produced 85% overall accuracy, 98% user's accuracy, and 78% producer's accuracy. This successful application of spectral mixture analysis has important implications for the monitoring and assessment of sagebrush-steppe communities. With the use of the percent shrub canopy cover estimates from the classified SPOT-5 imagery, we examined shrub canopy recovery rates since different burn years. With the use of linear-plateau regression, it was determined that shrub cover in mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. subsp. vaseyana [Rydb.] Beetle) communities recovered approximately 27 yr after fire, with an average shrub cover of 38%. These results are consistent with other field-based studies in mountain big sagebrush communities.
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