Assessing the Effect of Disturbances on the Functionality of Direct Protection Forests
Mountain Research and Development
ß 2016 Vacchiano et al. This open access article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Please credit the authors and the full source. Forests provide direct protection to human settlements from hydrogeomorphic hazards. This paper proposes a method for assessing the effect of natural disturbances on the functionality of direct protection forests (DPFs) in order to prioritize management interventions. We
... tions. We georeferenced disturbance data for wildfires, wind and snow damage, avalanches, and insects and overlaid them to a region-wide DPF map. Within each disturbance polygon, we used a Landsat-5 TM image to identify DPFs with insufficient vegetation cover, by using a maximum likelihood classifier of 6 spectral bands plus 5 vegetation indices. For each disturbance agent, we fitted a generalized linear model of the probability of finding a forested pixel, as a function of topography, time since disturbance, distance from disturbance edge, summer precipitation, and drought in the disturbance year. DPFs covered almost half of total forest area in the study region. Disturbance by insects occurred in more than one sixth of all forests. Avalanche and wildfire occurred each in about one tenth of total forest area, and wind and snow disturbance in only 1%. In the last 50 years, disturbances had a recurrence rate of 3% every 10 years. Almost one sixth of DPFs are currently lacking sufficient forest cover. Wildfires resulted in the highest rate of nonforested pixels (42% of all DPFs), followed by avalanches (21%). Forest recovery was explained by time elapsed, distance from edge (for conifers), and aspect. Summer precipitation and drought had a mixed influence. Our approach to assessing the effect of disturbances on the functionality of DPFs is reproducible in all mountain regions using institutional or open-access geographic data and provides a tool to prioritize DPF management by indicating where restoration of protection is most urgent.