Estimating Rangeland Fine Fuel Biomass in Western Texas Using High-Resolution Aerial Imagery and Machine Learning Academic Article uri icon


  • Rangeland fine fuel biomass is a key factor in determining fire spread and intensity, while the accuracy of biomass estimation is limited due to inherent heterogeneity in rangeland ecosystems. In this study, high spatial resolution (0.23 m) images were used to classify fuel types and predict rangeland fine fuel biomass in west Texas based on the random forest algorithm. Two biomass models, including one with the fuel type, original spectral bands, and vegetation indices as explanatory variables, and the other that contained a combination of the fuel type, original spectral bands, vegetation, and texture indices as explanatory variables, were assessed. Furthermore, the biomass models were also examined by upscaling the remote sensing images from high to medium (30 m) spatial resolution with the spectral curves derived from Landsat images. The fuel type map had an accuracy of more than 95%, and herbaceous fuel types were kept for estimating fine fuel biomass. The results showed that around 76% and 80% of biomass variances were explained by models without texture indices and with texture indices, respectively. The fuel type and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) were two significant input variables influencing fine fuel biomass for both models and adding texture indices contributed to the improvement of model accuracy. An upscaling analysis for biomass estimation using medium spatial resolution imagery showed that approximately 60% of the variance in biomass was explained by the model. The addition of fractional vegetation cover improved the model performance by explaining an additional 5% of the variance in biomass estimation. These findings indicate that high spatial resolution images have the potential to effectively estimate rangeland fuel types and fine fuel biomass, which can be helpful for mapping the spatial distribution of fine fuels to aid in monitoring and fire management on rangelands.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Li, Z., Angerer, J. P., Jaime, X., Yang, C., & Wu, X. B.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Li, Zheng||Angerer, Jay P||Jaime, Xavier||Yang, Chenghai||Wu, X Ben

publication date

  • 2022