Increasing Spatial Detail of Burned Scar Maps Using IRS-AWiFS Data for Mediterranean Europe

A two stage burned scar detection approach is applied to produce a burned scar map for Mediterranean Europe using IRS-AWiFS imagery acquired at the end of the 2009 fire season. The first stage identified burned scar seeds based on a learning algorithm (Artificial Neural Network) coupled with a bootstrap aggregation process. The second stage implemented a region growing process to extend the area of the burned scars. Several ancillary datasets were used for the accuracy assessment and a final visual check was performed to refine the burned scar product. Training data for the learning algorithm were obtained from MODIS-based polygons, which were generated by the Rapid Damage Assessment module of the European Forest Fire Information System. The map produced from this research is the first attempt to increase the spatial detail of current burned scar maps for the Mediterranean region. The map has been analyzed and compared to existing burned area polygons from the European Forest Fire Information System. The comparison showed that the IRS-AWiFS-based burned scar map improved the delineation of burn scars; in addition the process identified a number of small burned scars that were not detected on lower resolution sensor data. Nonetheless, the results do not clearly support the improved capability for the detection of smaller burned scars. A number of reasons can be provided for the under-detection of burned scars, these include: the lack of a full coverage and cloud free imagery, the time lag between forest fires and image acquisition date and the occurrence of fires after the image acquisition dates. On the other hand, the limited spectral information combined with the presence of undetected cloud shadows and shaded slopes are reasons for the over-estimation of small burned scars.