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Category: Ecological Research

Title: Working Paper 32: An Evaluation of Fire Regime Reconstruction Methods.

Author: * Kent, L.Y.

Subject: Fire, Regimes, Reconstruction Methods

Abstract: Fire is a fundamental disturbance process in ecology and has been a powerful agent of change in terrestrial ecosystems for millions of years. Understanding the role of fire on a landscape is critical for managing fire and forests for biodiversity, ecosystem function, and resilience to changes in climate. To better understand the role fire can play in forests today, researchers and managers have found it useful to reconstruct attributes of historical fire regimes before the onset of fire exclusion. Fire exclusion in the southwestern United States often occurred in the late 1800s, when activities such as grazing of domestic animals, logging, and fire suppression began on a widespread scale. Information about past fire regimes can be a helpful reference to guide and inform land managers about current and future fire regime characteristics, patterns, and forest structure characteristics. Management activities that benefit from understanding past fire regimes include prescribed fire, managed wildfires for resource benefit, and mechanical treatments to reduce fire risk. Six fire regime attributes are often considered: • Frequency: how often fires occur in a given area or region (see Box 1 for more detailed frequency terminology) • Seasonality: time of year • Severity: ecological effects of fire • Type: surface or crown fire • Size: area burned • Spatial complexity: pattern of severity within fire perimeter Fire intensity, which is a measure of the heat of a fire, is a seventh fire regime attribute that cannot be reconstructed directly but is inferred from fire severity. Fire severity refers to the ecological effects of fire and is often quantified by overstory tree mortality. Each fire regime attribute can be characterized by an average condition (for example, an average fire frequency of 8 years) as well as a measure of variation (for example, a range in fire frequency of 2 to 20 years). This working paper discusses several methods for reconstructing historical fire regimes: • Historical documents and photos • Dendrochronology: fire-scar data • Dendrochronology: tree age, death and growth data • Forest structure data • Plant traits • Charcoal Each of these methods will be discussed in terms of advantages, disadvantages, inherent uncertainties, and assumptions as well as temporal and spatial precision. The potential value and limitations for reconstructing historical forest structure and composition with each method are also briefly covered.

Date: 2014

Type: Working Papers

Source: ERI - Working Papers

Identifier: 15 p.

Publisher: Ecological Restoration Institute

Format: PDF

Language: English