Monday, June 30, 2014

Defining the Study Area -- Gold Butte Wildfires

This is Part II in a series of articles on Wildfires in the desert region of Gold Butte in North Eastern Clark County, NV. To read Part I click the following link: The Why Through Where

Defining the Study Area -- Gold Butte Wildfires Step II

The next step in my project to better understand the nature of wildfires in the Gold Butte region, I need to define the study area. One of the goals of this project is to better understand the relationships between the natural occurring phenomena, biological influences, and abiotic features that come together to create the landscape or ecosystem.

Over the years, Gold Butte has been expanded to encompass the entire region east of Virgin River to the Nevada\Arizona state line and down to Lake Mead to form the southern border. The Virgin River acts as both the Northern and Western border. This area works out to be just under half a million acres. With such a large area, coupled with a good understanding of the landscape, I knew I needed to modify the study area down to more of just the desert ecosystem so as to not distort my model. While most people would probably classify the whole region as a desert, our understanding can change when viewed more closely. When you get up close to the region you notice there are different subsystems within the larger system.

My case in point is the Virgin Mountain Range. If you take just the area I talked about above, which I will refer to as the Gold Butte region, and look at different factors such as elevation, average rain fall, vegetation and soil types, you can clearly see that there are many smaller ecosystems within the larger system. I also found other scientific data (Omernik ) that classifies ecosystems, where they also classified the Virgin Mountain Range to be a different ecosystem in relation to the rest of the Gold Butte region. The majority of the Gold Butte region falls within the Mojave Basin and Range system while the Virgin Mountain range is part of the Arizona/New Mexico Plateau region.

After analyzing the data I was able to define my study area so that I could create the best model possible. The total size of my study area works out to be 433,714 acres.

The next step is to run analysis on the same data that I did in step one but for the whole area of interest. This will then allow me to compare the results of the burn area against the whole study area and then find trends and spatial correlations between  all the data.