Fine-scale factors influence fire regimes in mixed-conifer forests on three high mountains in Mexico

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International Journal of Wildland Fire






CSIRO Publishing

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We investigated the influence of broad- v. fine-scale factors on fire in an unusual landscape suitable for distinguishing the drivers of fire synchrony. Our study was conducted in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range, in north-eastern Mexico. We worked in nine sites on three parallel mountains that receive nearly identical broad-scale climatic influence, but between which fires are unlikely to spread. We collected and cross dated samples from 357 firescarred trees in nine sites in high-elevation mixed-conifer forests and identified fire dates. We used Jaccard similarity analysis to evaluate synchrony among sites and quantified relationships between climate and fire occurrence. Fires were historically frequent (mean fire interval ranged from 8 to 16 years in all sites) and dates of fire exclusion ranged from 1887 to 1962. We found low fire synchrony among the three mountains, indicating a strong influence of fine-scale factors on fire occurrence. Fire regime attributes were similar across mountains despite the independence of fire dates. La Nin˜a events were associated with fire over time, although not significantly since the 1830s. Our results highlight the importance of scale in describing fire regimes and suggest that we can use fire history to understand controls on complex ecosystem processes and patterns.