Potential of MODIS EVI in Identifying Hurricane Disturbance to Coastal Vegetation in the Northern Gulf of Mexico


"Frequent hurricane landfalls along the northern Gulf of Mexico, in addition to causing immediate damage to vegetation, also have long term effects on coastal ecosystem structure and function. This study investigated the utility of using time series enhanced vegetation index (EVI) imagery composited in MODIS product MOD13Q1 for assessing hurricane damage to vegetation and its recovery. Vegetation in four US coastal states disturbed by five hurricanes between 2002 and 2008 were explored by change imagery derived from pre- and post-hurricane EVI data. Interpretation of the EVI changes within months and between years distinguished a clear disturbance pattern caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and a recovering trend of the vegetation between 2005 and 2008, particularly within the 100 km coastal zone. However, for Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, and Lili, the disturbance pattern which varied by the change imagery were not noticeable in some images due to lighter vegetation damage. The EVI pre- and post-hurricane differences between two adjacent years and around one month after hurricane disturbance provided the most likely damage area and patterns. The study also revealed that as hurricanes damaged vegetation in some coastal areas, strong precipitation associated with these storms may benefit growth of vegetation in other areas. Overall, the study illustrated that the MODIS product could be employed to detect severe hurricane damage to vegetation, monitor vegetation recovery dynamics, and assess benefits of hurricanes to vegetation."



forests, wetlands, natural disasters, coastal regions, Gulf of Mexico