Title

Historical high-severity fire patches in mixed-conifer forests

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Canadian Journal of Forest Research

Volume

45

Issue

11

Publisher

NRC Research Press

Publication Date

10-2-2017

First Page

1587

Last Page

1596

DOI

10.1139/cjfr-2015-0128

Abstract

Two ends of the fire regime spectrum are a frequent low-intensity fire regime and an infrequent high-intensity fire regime, but intermediate fire regimes combine high- and low-severity fire over space and time. We used fire-scar and tree-age data to reconstruct fire regime attributes of mixed-conifer and aspen forests in the North Rim area of Grand Canyon National Park, with a goal of estimating patch sizes of historical high-severity fire and comparing them with modern patch sizes. We used three methods based on (i) aspen groves, (ii) even-aged stands, and (iii) inverse distance weighting, to estimate occurrence and patch sizes of historical high-severity fire. Evidence of high-severity fire was common in the 1800s, and high-severity fire years were associated with drought. High-severity fire patch sizes likely ranged from 10−1 to 102 ha. However, the forest is quite young, and we cannot rule out a historical large high-severity fire that could have reinitiated much of the 1400 ha study area. Fire scars, which are indicative of low-severity fire, were also common. Historical fire was likely heterogeneous across the landscape. Maintaining heterogeneity of fire severity, size, and frequency would promote heterogeneity of forest structure and composition and resilience to future disturbances.

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