Van Kane A forest's structure records its past and enables predictions about its future

I am an Assitant Research Professor at the University of Washington College of Environment studying patterns of forest structure using remote sensing, especially airborne LiDAR. My work focuses on applied studies such as measuring forest fuels, studying large areas of forests to elucidate forest processes and resulting patterns, and developing new methods to relate LiDAR data to field and satellite forests measurements. My current work involves studying forest structure across a range of forest types including the Pacific Northwest and California at scales ranging from 25 to 95,000 hectares.
The project I am currently spending the most time on is Restoring Forest Resilience at Multiple Scales.

Office: Bloedel 204 (Campus map)
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Box 352100
Seattle, WA 98195

Publications, reports, and conferences

Peer-reviewed publications

Stavros, E.N., Z. Tane, V.R. Kane, S. Veraverbeke, R.J. McGaughey, J.A. Lutz, and C. Ramirez. In Press. Unprecedented remote sensing data from before and after California King and Rim Megafires. Ecology.

Kane, V.R., C.A. Cansler, N.A. Povak, J.T. Kane, R.J. McGaughey, J.A. Lutz, D.J. Churchill, and M.P. North. 2015b. Mixed severity fire effects within the Rim fire: Relative importance of local climate, fire weather, topography, and forest structure. Forest Ecology and Management 358: 62-79.

Kane, V.R., J.A. Lutz, C.A. Cansler, N.A. Povak, D.J. Churchill, D.F. Smith, J.T. Kane, and M.P. North. 2015. Water balance and topography predict fire and forest structure patterns. Forest Ecology and Management 338: 1-13.

Kane, V.R., M.P. North, J.A. Lutz, D.J. Churchill, S.L. Roberts, D.F. Smith, R.J. McGaughey, J.T. Kane, and M.L. Brooks. 2014. Assessing fire effects on forest spatial structure using a fusion of Landsat and airborne LiDAR data in Yosemite National Park Remote Sensing of Environment 151: 89-101.

Kane, V.R., J.A. Lutz, S.L. Roberts, D.F. Smith, R.J. McGaughey, N.A. Povak, and M.L. Brooks. 2013. Landscape-scale effects of Fire Severity on Mixed-conifer and Red Fir Forest Structure in Yosemite National Park. Forest Ecology and Management 291: 442-457.

Kane, V.R., R. Gersonde, J.A. Lutz, R.J. McGaughey, J.D. Bakker, and J.F. Franklin. 2011. Patch dynamics and development of structural and spatial heterogeneity in Pacific Northwest forests. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 41: 2276-2291.

Kane, V.R., J.D. Bakker, R.J. McGaughey, J.A. Lutz, R. Gersonde, and J.F. Franklin. 2010. Examining conifer canopy structural complexity across forest ages and elevations with LiDAR data. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 40: 774-787.

Kane, V.R., R.J. McGaughey, J.D. Bakker, R. Gersonde, J.A. Lutz, and J.F. Franklin. 2010. Comparisons between field- and LiDAR-based measures of stand structural complexity. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 40: 761-773.

Lutz, J.A., J.A. Freund, R.K. Hagmann, V.R. Kane, A.J. Larson, and J.F. Franklin. 2008. Mid-career graduate students in ecology. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 6(7): 394-395.

Kane, V.R., A.R. Gillespie, R.J. McGaughey, J.A. Lutz, K. Ceder, and J.F. Franklin. 2008. Interpretation and topographic compensation of conifer canopy self-shadowing. Remote Sensing of Environment 112(10): 3820-3832.

Gillespie, A.R., L. Gilson, M.A. Gillespie, and V.R. Kane. 2006. A framework for estimating unresolved spectral shade. In: J.A. Sobrino (Ed.), Second recent advances in quantitative remote sensing (pp. 385-390). Spain: Publicacions de la Universitat de Valencia.


Kane, V.R., C. Farris, J.T. Kane, M.E. LeFevre, S.M.A. Jeronimo, J.A. Lutz, and D.J. Churchill. 2015. Forest Structure Patterns across Crater Lake National Park from LiDAR Data. Final Report to the National Park Service.

Kane, V.R., K. Kopper, and C. Copass. 2014. Mapping the fuel characteristics of Mount Rainier National Park: A fusion of field, environmental, and LiDAR data. Report to National Park Service.

Kane, V.R. and J.A. Lutz. 2012. Combining Landsat and LiDAR Remote Sensing Data to refine fire management objectives for forest structure heterogeneity in Yosemite National Park. Final Report. Report to National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey.

Kane, V.R.. 2008. Ellsworth Creek LiDAR analysis final report. Report to The Nature Conservancy of Washington State.

Kane, V.R.. 2008. Canopy structure at Ellsworth Creek study sites and experimental basins. Report to The Nature Conservancy of Washington State.

Kane, V.R.. 2008. Methods used to produce LiDAR metrics of Ellsworth Creek forest canopies. Report to the City of Seattle Public Utilities Division.

Kane, V.R.. 2008. MEthods used to produce LiDAR metrics of Cedar River Watershed forest canopies. Report to The Nature Conservancy of Washington State.


Biophysical controls on forest structure and fire severity in Yosemite National Park. 2014. 99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Kane, V.R., C.A. Cansler, N.A. Povak, D.J. Churchill, M.P. North, D.F. Smith, and J.A. Lutz (oral presentation).

Forests and fires: Insights from LiDAR. 2014. Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop. Kane, V.R., J.A. Lutz, R.J. McGaughey, and M.P. North.

Defining new fuel maps for Mount Rainier national park from a fusion of field, LiDAR, and environmental data. 2014. 85th Annual Meeting of the Northwest Scientific Association. Kane, V.R., K. Kopper, and C. Copass.

Fusion of Landsat and Airborne LiDAR Data to Study Landscape-scale Effects of Fire Severity in Yosemite National Park. 2012. 5th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress. Kane, V.R., J.A. Lutz, S.L. Roberts, D.F. Smith, R.J. McGaughey, and M.L. Brooks (oral presentation).

Using LiDAR Data to Model Changes in Forest Structure from Mixed Severity Fires. 2012. Silvilaser. Kane, V.R., J.A. Lutz, and M.P. North (oral presentation).

Fusion of Landsat and Airborne LiDAR Data to Study Landscape-scale effects of Fire Severity in Yosemite National Park. 2012. ForestSat. Kane, V.R. and J.A. Lutz (oral presentation).

Restoring natural gap variability: Relationships between forest type, fire severity, and gap size distributions in Yosemite National Park. 2012. 97th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Kane, V.R. and J.A. Lutz (oral presentation).

Using LIDAR for Multi-Scaled assessments of forest structure. 2009. 94th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Kane, V.R., R.J. McGaughey, R. Gersonde, J.A. Lutz, J.D. Bakker, and J.F. Franklin (oral presentation).

Calibrating Landsat/ASTER with LiDAR for Forest Studies. 2009. NASA Biodiversity and Ecological Forecasting Team Meeting. Kane, V.R. (oral presentation).

Characterizing Forest Structural Complexity at Multiple Scales. 2009. 80th Annual Meeting of the Northwest Scientific Association. Kane, V.R., R.J. McGaughey, R. Gersonde, J.A. Lutz, J.D. Bakker, and J.F. Franklin (oral presentation).

Using LiDAR metrics to characterize forests structural complexity at multiple scales. 2007. American Geophysical Union Conference. Kane, V.R., R.J. McGaughey, R. Gersonde, and J.F Franklin (oral presentation).

Spectral unmixing of remotely sensed forest images using an adaptive topographic shade correction algorithm. 2006. American Geophysical Union Conference. Kane, V.R., A.R. Gillespie, K. Ceder, and J.A. Lutz (poster).

Mapping the geography of conservation solutions. 2006. Annual Meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology. Kane, V.R. and J. Hoekstra (oral presentation).


Current Projects

Determining if Managed Wildfires and Prescribed Fires Conserve Critical Habitat Structure for Pacific Fishers in the Southern Sierra Nevada
This project seeks to understand whether wildfire and prescribed fire conserve important, forest structure elements of Pacific fisher habitat in the southern Sierra Nevada. The Pacific fisher (Martes pennanti pacifica) is a rare, reclusive forest carnivore that occupies the most structurally complex patches of mixed conifer forests in the southern Sierra Nevada. Previous research developed a model of fisher occupancy based on presence/absence data that predicts high probability of occurrence of fishers in portions of Yosemite National Park (YOSE), Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI), and the National Forests of the Southern Sierra Nevada. This project will combine LiDAR remote sensing data (from YOSE and the Kings River Fisher Project) and fisher habitat use data to examine crucial fire management questions.
Collaborators: Craig Thompson, Derek Churchill, Monika Moskal
Sponsor: National Park Service

Using LiDAR to Guide Restoration in the Crater Lake Panhandle
This project merges field-based methods with remotely sensed LiDAR data of the Panhandle area of Crater Lake National Park (CRLA) to prioritize areas for forest restoration and to plan individual restoration projects. The mixed conifer forests in the CRLA Panhandle represent one of the largest contiguous tracts of intact old-growth of this forest type in the area. The cultural and ecological significance of Panhandle old-growth to CRLA is reflected in park planning efforts that have identified restoration of those forests as a high priority.
Collaborators: Sean Jeronimo, Calvin Farris
Sponsor: National Park Service

Landscape Evaluations and Prescriptions for Post-fire Landscapes
Wildfires across the western US are modifying the structure and composition of forests at rates that far exceed mechanical thinning and prescribed fire treatments. Thus, credible stewardship of western forests must consider the effects of recent and future wildfires in a whole-landscape framework. The "work" of wildfires can be beneficial in terms of reducing fuel loads, enhancing fire resistant species and structure, and creating early-seral habitat. However, many recent wildfires are creating large high-severity patches in dry forest systems that were historically dominated by low- and mixed-severity fires. This may be creating conditions that are more susceptible to future high-severity disturbances or shifts to new ecosystem states that will not sustain the same ecological and social functions. This project will apply the landscape prescription concept to analyze, quantify, and forecast the "work" of past and future wildfires, using the forests of north central Washington State as a model system.
Collaborators: Andrew Larson, Paul Hessburg, Derek Churchill, Alina Cansler, Nicholas Povak, James Lutz
Sponsor: Joint Fire Sciences Program

Using multi-scale spatial data to improve predictions of immediate and delayed fire mortality
Density-dependent mortality - the situation in which probability of mortality is higher in local areas of high tree density - is one of the most universal ecology concepts guiding forest management. Stand dynamics theory, numerous recent empirical tree mortality studies, including those of post-fire tree mortality, and the forest entomology literature all emphasize that local crowding increases the likelihood of tree death. Yet, the post-fire tree mortality equations used in common modeling platforms (e.g., FOFEM) do not include terms for local crowding, and density-dependence was not considered when those mortality models were developed. We will address these issues with a unique, matched set of pre-fire and post-fire data - a 25.6 ha plot (800 m × 320 m) where all 34,579 trees have been mapped and tracked from three years before the Rim Fire to two years post-fire, and will be tracked over to five years post-fire.
Collaborators: James Lutz, Andrew Larson
Sponsor: Joint Fire Sciences Program

Using LiDAR Data to Assess Forest Structure and Fuels at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve and at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
This is a collaborative project between the National Park Service (NPS) and the University of Washington (UW) to explore methods for using airborne LIDAR data to improve existing regional Fuel model mapping with additional information on forest overstory characteristics. NPS and UW will cooperate to provide an analysis of the forest structure across the newly enlarged Oregon Caves National Monument and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area using previously collected airborne LiDAR data. We will use the LiDAR data products to identify potential locations for various fuels treatment project areas and to produce maps useful for planning and prioritizing areas for individual or localized treatments.
Collaborators: Miles LeFevre, John Donahue, Greg Funderburk, Eamon Engber, John Roth, Calvin Farris, Russ Weatherbee, Jennifer Gibson, Tom Garcia
Sponsor: National Park Service

Using LiDAR and Other Remotely-Sensed Data Products to Inform Landscape Analyses and Forest Management
Federal, state, and local government agencies have been actively acquiring high-density airborne light detecting and ranging data (LiDAR) for lands in Washington, Oregon and California over the last 10 years. Bare-earth surface models derived from these data have been used extensively for hydrologic analyses and to identify and map areas prone to landslide activity. However, applications of the data for characterizing vegetation have been more limited. In many cases, data collections were not timed to coincide with local project level analyses and by the time project-level analyses commenced, vegetation conditions had changed enough to make the LiDAR data somewhat out-of-date. In this project we will work together to identify LiDAR-derived products that can inform existing landscape analysis methodologies.
Collaborators: Robert McGaughey, Derek Churchill
Sponsor: US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station

Using Airborne LiDAR to Detect and Characterize Individual Trees
Western forests are in a continual state of change. Insects, prolonged drought conditions, and fire have caused stress and mortality at the stand and individual tree level. High-density LiDAR provides measurements at the individual tree and branch level and may be useful for assessing and mapping tree vigor over large land areas. A small number of published studies have looked into ways to identify and characterize individual trees and their condition using LiDAR data. In this project, we will develop, test, and refine methods aimed at identifying individual trees and assessing their condition. This project will utilize existing data as well as any new data that becomes available during the study period.
Collaborators: Robert McGaughey, Sean Jeronimo, Derek Churchill, Monika Moskal
Sponsor: US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station

Using Advanced LiDAR Analysis to Reconcile Spotted Owl Habitat and Fuels Reduction
Forest restoration in the Sierra Nevada is often stymied by conflicting management objectives, particularly efforts to reduce fuel loads and associated risk of large-scale, stand-replacing fire and providing habitat for species associated with dense, multi-layer canopy cover. Large areas managed for dense canopy cover conditions are in conflict with increasing the fire and drought resilience of Sierra forests and may not be sustainable given recent and projected future trends in fire risk and warming climates. Airborne LiDAR data is now available to explore multi-scale CSO habitat associations at appropriate scales relevant to forest structure and function, an important first step for bridging the gap to integrate single-species management and ecosystem management perspectives. A key goal for our study will be to assess the effects of forest structure patterns at multiple scales surrounding and across nesting and foraging areas.
Collaborators: John Keane, Malcolm North, Derek Churchill
Sponsor: US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station

Restoring Forest Resilience at Multiple Scales
Many projects seek to restore forests through silvicultural management following decades of timber harvest and fire suppression. Common goals are to enhance structural heterogeneity, increase forest resilience, and improve habitat for sensitive species. This project will develop tools and methodologies using LiDAR data for prioritizing areas to restore at the landscape scale and then develop silvicultural prescriptions within project areas.
Collaborators: Derek Churchill and Carlos Ramirez
Sponsor: USDA Forest Service

LiDAR Integration into Dry Forest Management and Restoration
In this project, forest LiDAR experts in the PNW Research Station and the University of Washington will work intensively with Forest Service teams and stakeholders on one to three restoration projects. This project will have three phases. 1) Work with collaborative groups, National Forests, and Districts to determine the types of information, resolution, and scales needed to support their analysis and planning efforts especially as they relate to LiDAR data. 2) Educate these groups to help them better understand the basic products delivered as part of a LiDAR acquisition and the additional products that can be produced with and without concurrent field measurements. 3) Work with local specialists to develop strategies for using LiDAR-derived information to augment or replace existing information used in their respective planning activities. Part of this work involves identifying new LiDAR-derived products or analysis methods.
Collaborators: Derek Churchill, Robert McGaughey
Sponsor: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station

Data Processing Methods for Large-Area LIDAR Acquisitions And Related Modeling to Predict Forest Inventory Variables.
This study will determine the best practices for using Forest Inventory and Analysis plots for inventory and biomass predictions using LiDAR data collected for the Deschutes National Forest.
Collaborators: Robert McGaughey and Steve Reutebuch
Sponsor: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station

Data Processing and Field Sample Design for Medford, OR LIDAR Acquisition and Related Modeling to Characterize Forest Structure
This project will use innovative methods to identify and map the forest structures are present across an approximately one million acre LiDAR acquisition covering federal and private lands centered on Medford, Oregon. When combined with appropriate ground plots, descriptive statistics computed from the point cloud will be used to model and predict forest inventory variables and structure.
Collaborators: Robert McGaughey and Steve Reutebuch
Sponsor: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station

Completed Projects

Using LiDAR to Determine the Relationship between Fire History and Forest Structure at Crater Lake National Park
The goal of this collaborative project is to use LiDAR data to understand how time-since-fire (TSF) and fire severity controls patterns of forest structure development across elevation and compositional gradients. Our specific objectives are to: (1) determine how post-fire development of forest structure varies along gradients of elevation, fire severity, and TSF by directly mapping stand development stage, canopy height, height to live crown, canopy vertical structure, basal area, and gap and patch size; (2) compare forest and patch structures created by contemporary wildland fires with pre-20th century fires; and (3) develop park-wide atlases of fire severity measurements and forest structural attributes.
Collaborators: Calvin Farris, James Lutz
Sponsor: National Park Service

Integrated, observation-based carbon monitoring for wooded ecosystems in Washington, Oregon, and California
Predicting the fate of carbon in wooded ecosystems under future climates is a fundamental scientific and management challenge, as these systems contain large reservoirs of carbon, provide many essential ecosystem services, and represent a potentially critical feedback in global climate change. Yet carbon storage is highly dynamic and affected by diverse anthropogenic and natural processes that can radically change the carbon trajectory of a landscape. This project will map changes in carbon storage in wooded ecosystems across these three states. My contribution will calibrate the regional Landsat measurements with field and LiDAR-measurements of carbon at the watershed to regional scales. Study website.
Collaborators: Robert Kennedy (PI), James Lutz, Janet Ohmann, Warren Cohen, Jerry Franklin, and Scott Powell
Sponsors: U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA

Integrating and expanding a regional carbon monitoring system into the NASA Carbon Monitoring System
NASA’s The Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) is a forward-looking initiative designed to make significant contributions in characterizing, quantifying, understanding, and predicting the evolution of global carbon sources and sinks. We will integrate the methods and results developed through the Integrated, observation-based carbon monitoring for wooded ecosystems in Washington, Oregon, and California project (see above) into NASA’s larger carbon monitoring program. NASA CMS website.
Collaborators: Robert Kennedy (PI), Scott Powell, Warren Cohen, Jerry Franklin, Gretchen Moisen, Janet Ohmann, Rachel Riemann, Barry Wilson
Sponsor: NASA

Map Fuel Characteristics at Mount Rainier National Park, WA, Using LiDAR and Field Data
LiDAR data offers the opportunity to map forest fuel characteristics across large forests. This study will develop methods to correlate field fuel measures with LiDAR canopy measurements to produce a fuels map across the heterogeneous forests of Mt. Rainier National Park.
Collaborators: Regina Rochefort, Karen Kopper
Sponsor: National Park Service

Refine fire management objectives related to forest structural heterogeneity in Yosemite National Park, CA
As fires burn heterogeneously across a landscape with mixed vegetation types, variability in vegetation and fire behavior create a mosaic of burn severity patches. These patches vary in size and shape and the amount of post-fire change in the vegetation structure.
Collaborators: Susan Roberts, Gus Smith, James Lutz
Sponsor: National Park Service and US Geological Survey

Methods to Improve Predictions of Forest Conditions Using Airborne LiDAR Data
The project will involve a number of tasks in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service Northwest Research Station to develop and improve methods to measure and predict forest conditions using airborne LiDAR data.
Collaborator: Robert McGaughey
Sponsor: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station

Gap and Patch Structure of Pacific Northwest Forests
The development of gaps and regrowth patches is a key process to developing structures characteristic of old-growth forests. This work quantifies gap and patch structure across a range of forest ages, relates the observed patterns to theories of forest development, and examines whether the patterns observed can be used to refine remote sensing methods to classify forests.
Collaborators: Rolf Gersonde, James Lutz
Sponsor: NASA (completion of work begun under NASA Graduate Fellowship)