Fire in Ecosystem Distribution and Structure : Western Forests and Scrublands

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Proceedings of the Conference: Fire Regimes and Ecosystem Properties

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Fire plays an important role in determining structure of forests and scrublands throughout the West. Distribution and structure of vegetation depends upon topography, climatic regime, and fire regime. Six fire regimes are defined based on fire frequency and intensity, varying from frequent, low-intensity surface fires to very long return internal, stand replacement fires. In certain western forest and scrubland fire suppression for the past 50 to 100 years has led to longer intervals between fires, increases in surface and crown fuels, changes in forest structure, and sequential impacts on fire intensity, postfire age structure, species composition, fuel accumulation, and both horizontal and vertical pattern. Better understanding of fire regimes is basic to our management of western ecosystems.


This item was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.